Tuesday, 20 September 2011

our twist on the weaning table

I had bought a low coffee table a long time ago, in hopes of using it as a weaning table for my last little love.  Weaning tables are a staple in Montessori for infants.  You can read a little bit about it here HERE  (this is a very good article) and also here.
They are basically the Montessori answer to a high chair.  The table provides, even to the youngest child, the opportunity to eat like adults in a setting that meets his requirements.  It helps him to learn how to eat by himself, and not rely on a parent to be fed.

This coffee table was of perfect height and weight (the table needs to be sturdy and heavy enough to help maintain the child in place), and had enough space on it to display utensils and plates and glass, and have my children eat on it.  I was really excited about it.

Except, I never used it really.

Why?  Because one thing bothered me: the family table.
Let me explain.  In a world where everything is fast: whether it is time, food...DH have made a point that all meals taken under our roof would be done 1. sitting at a table, 2. together, 3.without rushing 4. and eating at the same time.  No exceptions.
And well, the weaning table was breaking rule number 2 which is being all together.  And no matter how I tried to make it work in my head, I was always breaking a law. (at other times, it was the 4rth one).  And so the weaning table was voted out.

I still strongly believe in the principles layed out by the Montessori philosophy concerning eating and weaning (well, except for the early weaning from the breast one), and was determined to apply them nonetheless, weaning table or not.  And that is what we did.  We provided E with children's size glasses,  plates and utensils that he could use right from the start at 6 months old.   And we also provided him with a specially prepared place to store his material (honestly, one if the best things I have set up for him!) and snacks, making sure he always had access to food, water, or anything food related at all times.

I have even set the weaning table in the kitchen near the table to be ready for table setting activities, table washing activities and so on.  But aside from snacks, E eats at the family table with us.
He does so on this chair.  Which is perfect really.  No trays, he can just eat with us right at the table, and we can see he does feel part of us this way.
But I have always felt a little scared that he would miss on on something.

Well, I can say now that he does not.  Seeing him last week bringing his bowl to the table when dinner was called as ready showed me that it is not the weaning table that makes the difference, but how meals are handled.  (I still think weaning tables are awesome btw).

So what did we do?

  • We had a routine of calling him when dinner was ready.  He comes at the table and climb to stand up besides his chair at every meal.  We do pick him up to sit him in, but only after he has asked or show clear interest of climbing up.
  • We sit him in his chair whenever he asked for it, even if it is not mealtime
  • We get him out as soon as he ask (starts wiggling, shows things on the floor...) and we do not use the chair as a contraption to keep him there while we do something else.
  • We let him participate at setting the table up to what he can do (he is getting out the placemats recently, since they are at his level, and he often gives us his bowl and fork and we put them on the table for him)
  • We let him snack at the weaning table which is still in the dinning room, next to the table
  • We let him eat by himself (trust me, there was not other way anyways...) always providing him with the utensils he needed
  • We prepped his food according to his need and developmental stage (i.e. cutting food in finger size pieces for him to take, making sure that it was not too hot...) and keeping in mind the fact that he wanted to eat on his own ALL the time (forget the puree here)
  • We let him eat at his own pace, without helping unless he would ask for, (which mean not often) or showed signs of struggling.
  • We gave him a variety of food and let him decide what he wanted to eat and how much.
I have to agree that these last bits are more influence by the baby led weaning philosophy then the  Montessori one (Kylie has posted a GREAT chart explaining the difference between the 2 here), but this is what works best for us.

After 6 months of being at the table with us and seeing how routinely things happens, I can see that he is now interesting in helping us more when it is time to clean the table.  I have seen him "clean" his place with his cloth while we were bringing the plates to the kitchen, and he is starting more and more to give us his plate when he is done.  Since he is not walking yet, there are things he cannot do yet, but it will come fast enough.  In the meantime, I am preparing cleaning cloths for his size (that I will give him access too really soon), a little basket to carry things to the table and a set of dishes and glass to put in his shelf for him to use.  I'll post picture of his newly organized shelf when it will be ready (read, when he walks)

So what are we doing with the weaning table?

the weird corner just at the bottom of the pic is our kitchen table.  Shows you how close it is

It has become a snack table, as I was saying earlier on, but it gets the most use as an activity table:

He loves to sit at this table.  And he does all sorts of things there, mostly he copies what we usually do at our table.  He scribbles, takes a book and flip the pages there, brings a puzzle and makes it there.  He loves being able to practice sitting down on the chair, pushing it, pushing back to stand up... 

and every time he gets there, unasked for help always appears...  I guess the table is attractive to them too.


  1. I love his caddy. Can I ask what he has in there?

  2. Firstly I just wanted to say thank you for your wonderful blog - my daughter's almost 14 months old, so it's fantastic being able to read about what you're doing with E.

    I have a question regarding washing E's hands before meals. Since you wait for him to show an interest in getting into the chair before you put in him, do you clean his hands when he's in the chair, or before?

  3. Jacqueline, thank you for your kind words!

    I often catch myself thinking about the days when I had only one child to take care of and how I find it was easier back then when organizing Montessori activities. BUt this is a time when I find having other children is actually more helpful. E just follows the others when he sees them washing their hands, right before dinner is ready. And after we have helped him out, we put him back down instead of putting him in his chair. Then he asks when he is ready to go to his chair. So this means that he might do something between the handwashing and sitting down to eat.

    I am currently trying to set him up a hand washing station though so that he can go and wash his hands" on his own" when he is ready before going to sit at the table. I'll let you know how this goes :)

  4. That chair is PERFECT! Can I ask you where you got it? Thank you!

  5. Hello Su and welcome.

    The chair was bought at Michael Olaf : here: http://michaelolaf.com/store/product105.html

    We love it too. It is indeed perfect!