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The 5 Best Tips for Helping Children Become Independent at Mealtime

In January we added four children to our classroom ages five to eleven.

School begins at 10 AM, Monday through Thursday (so long as the girl's schools are in session).

At first we offered a morning snack halfway through the three period block followed by lunch at the end, but quickly observed that serving breakfast and lunch would best meet the needs of our new students.

Serving breakfast and lunch also provides opportunities to introduce more variety in Bulldozer and Dinomite's food repertoire, which is always a positive thing.

Breakfast and lunch have become a time that everyone looks forward to each day.

We have had so much fun introducing Montessori components to the serving process.  All of the kids LOVE that they are able to be so independent.

Here are our 5 best tips for helping children be independent while serving food.

The 5 Best Tips Helping Children Become Independent at Mealtime
A hamburger and hotdog bar for lunch!

The Opposite of Super Sizing

If you're like me, transferring peanut butter, jelly, and Nutella into smaller bowls for little hands every day can get a bit old.  This is especially true when it comes to transferring what's not used back into the jars. Don't even get me started on washing out bowls.  So much ends up being wasted.

Luckily these products along with many others are sold in several different sizes.  We've found that when we use the smallest sized food containers available, little hands can easily handle them and there is less waste and clean up.

Use child sized containers and knives
A Nutella sandwich is always an option for lunch.

This is also true with cereal.  My husband and I quickly noticed all of the children struggled pouring cereal in super sized boxes.  It spilled everywhere.  This meant we had to pour everything.  When we switched to purchasing the smaller boxes, all of the children could be independent.  Such a win win for everyone!

Little Servers

Adult sized serving utensils can be quite frustrating for little hands.  They are heavy, awkward and often tip over when handled inappropriately spilling food everywhere.

When we decided to replace large serving utensils with smaller ones, children can easily and confidently make their own plates without worry.

Here are some of our favorites!
The 5 Best Tips for Helping Children Be Independent While Serving Food: The Perfect Serving Utensils for Little Hands


This silicone ladle is a safe way to allow children to transfer soups and stews as it doesn't heat up when in a heated pot and is smaller than your typical ladle.

These wooden spoons grow with your child.

If you are not a fan of wooden spoons or are looking for something a little bit deeper this small mixing spoon is perfect.

Whether serving mini burgers or brownies this spatula does the trick.

Tongs are useful for serving many foods!  We use ours almost every day.

Children being independent while making their plates.
A waffle bar for breakfast!


Last but not least these cheese spreaders work fabulously well as knives when spreading peanut butter and jelly until a child is ready for an adult sized knife.

I have introduced child sized knives in the past, but my children still prefer these.  They can scoop up far more of their favorite spreads much quicker.

The Presentation


Just like large serving utensils, large serving bowls can provide significant challenges for children.

They're heavy.

At times they can be too deep, making it difficult for children to reach food.

If serving bowls are not see through, children can't observe their hand movements while transferring food.

We have found the best results when we use clear serving dishes that are small and shallow.

Use small and shallow serving dishes.

Hands down our favorite serving dishes are part of the Pyrex 10-Piece Set.  I especially love the rectangle shaped dishes.  They provide children more room for scooping.

When we're finished with a meal and there are still left overs, the Pyrex lids make it so easy to put left overs away.

Use child-sized pitchers, serving utensils and more!
Yogurt parfaits for breakfast!

Pouring Liquids

Pouring liquids at meal time seems to be the most challenging for children in our classroom.  Even a full quart of milk from the store is too difficult for some to pour on their own.  This is why we've taken the time to invest in and use smaller liquid containers.

The Best Pitchers for Little Hands


The 5'' mini glass pitcher works perfectly for pouring syrups and sauces.

We can't live without this pitcher that comes with a lid.  Four are used on a daily basis for juices and milk.

A Designated Serving Space

I grew up in a home where food was served at the table.  Dishes were passed around by adults and children were served along the way.  This prevented little hands from being burned and food from spilling everywhere.  But is also prevented children from being independent during this process.

In our home food is placed on the small island in our kitchen, where children can reach and make their own plates.  Whether they're scooping out macaroni and cheese, pouring cereal, or making their sandwiches, all is done in this designated space with child friendly sized serving dishes and utensils.

When we provide an easily accessible place for children to serve themselves without worry we are allowing them to take control of the mealtime process.

The food serving process in our home has improved so much with these tips.  Serving food up may seem like a simple thing to us adults, but it is huge to children who are desperately seeking out ways to become more independent and providing service for others.

If a child can fix their own plate, they can also fix yours.  What a wonderful way for your child to provide service and show love!

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy the resources below.

How to Help My Child Want Try New Foods Montessori-inspired Self-Care: Kitchen Tasks Printable Pack My Body: Digestive System and Nutrition Unit When Food Is Your Child's Enemy

The 5 Best Tips for helping Children Become Independent at Mealtime

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