Montessori food prep activities are the culmination of years of practical life exercises. There are four areas of Practical Life that need to be introduced to the child before food prep: Movement, Care of the Person, Care of the Environment, and Grace & Courtesy. As soon as the basic activities from these four elements have been mastered, the child is ready for food prep. Let's use orange squeezing as an example, I've added links to an online Montessori album so you can read the specific details for each basic lesson.
Movement: The child must be able to use his gross motor skills to carry the heavy tray to the table. Fine motor skills are used to pour the juice into small cups. The hand muscles are used to twist the lid off of the juicer in order to wash it.
Care of the Person: The child must learn to wash her hands before starting the activity, handwashing is one of the core practical life lessons. The proper use of a napkin is also essential for this work.
Care of the Environment: After the orange squeezing work, the child must be able to wash all of the dishes used. He also must have mastered the use of a broom and/or mop. There is a chance that the child may even need to scrub the table afterwards.
Grace & Courtesy: One of my favorite aspects of the Montessori curriculum, Grace & Courtesy teaches children how to work peacefully and politely in the classroom and larger community. In the orange squeezing example, the child learns to serve others before himself, he learns not to speak with food or drink in his mouth, and the other children learn how to accept or decline the offer for juice.
Now that our chick friends have left, I'm able to put food prep work back out on the shelves. Unfortunately, chicks are very dirty animals and I didn't want to take the chance that some of the younger students might forget to wash their hands. I put out egg slicing on Friday and, as always, it was a huge success. The children took great care with walking the egg from the refrigerator to the table. I heard "yes please" and "no thank you" from the children who were offered an egg slice. The only downfall...our classroom has a bit of an egg smell right now!!