Friday, January 03, 2014

Introducing Foods by Following the Child - A Montessori Approach

NAMC montessori feeding approach introduce food by following the child baby sleeping

When my son was born, our pediatrician gave me a schedule of solid foods to introduce. I had already decided that I would not use jarred food but would make his baby food myself in an attempt to cut costs. The first food that the doctor advised using was powdered rice cereal, followed by puréed banana, neither of which my son liked. To be honest, I would not even try the rice cereal and I, too, am quite picky about bananas. I persevered and introduced more fruits such as peaches, pears, and apples. He just would not eat any of the food I gave him and became fussy with each attempt. Clearly, something was not right and I started to wonder about the list.

Feeding From a Montessori Perspective: Cultural Foods and Following the Child

I visited my local bookstore for help. At that time there were very few books written in the US that differed from the current American prescribed diet: begin with the blandest carbohydrate (rice), move to sweet fruits, then vegetables, and finally add chicken and beef. Fish, cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, etc.), and legumes such as beans were missing from the list. Eggs, cheese, and dairy products were not to be added until after a year. Then, I came across a baby food cook book by a woman in England. Imagine my surprise to find British babies growing up on fish, lentils, and cheese! But the biggest difference was that instead of feeding one food at a time, this author suggested cooking seasoned combinations of foods. The recipes she presented sounded like meals for the whole family, with baby’s food puréed or mashed after cooking.

NAMC montessori feeding approach introduce food by following the child toddler eating

Instead of looking at feeding solid foods as a sort of science project, I began looking at introducing my son to the whole culinary experience. He began to enjoy eating once his palate was awakened. In fact, in addition to fish, his new favorites included lentil soup, a mélange of carrots, broccoli, and zucchini in cheese sauce, and a chicken, apple, and cheese casserole. I realized that he preferred savory foods to sweet, something that went against the common perception of the American baby diet.

Food and Culture

The primary purpose of food is to nourish the body. However, the foods we eat are culturally defined by geography, environmental factors, economics, history, and even religion. Some cultures see the transition to solid food as an important milestone and celebrate it with important rituals. Other cultures use certain foods to combat nutritional deficiencies. Kenya, for example, uses sweet potatoes to help boost vitamin A levels.

NAMC montessori feeding approach introduce food by following the child laughing baby and dad

Maria Montessori discussed the importance of nutrition in her book The Montessori Method, devoting an entire chapter to the child’s diet. You can see by reading the chapter (Chapter 8) how her Italian culture and heritage influenced her ideas: one of baby’s first foods is a dish of polenta, peeled and finely chopped tomato, olive oil, and fresh parmesan cheese!

As Dr. Montessori’s suggestions show, baby food needn’t be bland! Japanese children eat pickled vegetables; Indian children experience the bold flavors of cumin, coriander, mint, and cinnamon; Vietnamese and Thai children like fish sauce; and Mexican children learn about chilies. Develop your baby’s palate by introducing foods from your culture at a young age.

There is more to food than eating. When we prepare nutritious and pleasant tasting meals for our children, we are building a strong foundation of cultural heritage. We are nurturing not just their bodies but also their minds and souls.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, January 3, 2014.


  1. I am a new Mom of nearly six month (by end of this month) old boy and adoring Montessori Method. My son starts to be attracted by any food we eat but as doctor suggestion, baby will be ready for food at age 6m. In Montessori Method, while believes that we follow child readiness, should I force my son to wait til 6m to get his fist food or I can start to introduce while (as I know seems) he is ready to have now. Considering with his intense and body, I will really appreciate for any answer from NAMC. Pleasure.


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