Week 43: Behold, the Weaning Table

I was going to title this post “Introducing the Weaning Table” but it’s been introduced for almost 4 months now, at least to Ambrose. So this will be a bit of an explainer to everyone else! And hopefully some random person or two will stumble on this in their search for information about the Montessori weaning table.

So! The weaning table. Don’t be confused by the name — the intent is not to fully wean the kid from milk starting at 6 months. That’s just…what everyone refers to it as. What it is, in a nutshell, is a kid-sized table with a kid-sized chair that you serve kid-sized meals on. With kid-sized dishes and silverware. It’s all very cute and quite messy.

But so worth it! I’ve very much loved using the weaning table with Ambrose. First of all, it’s ridiculously cute seeing him sit at an Ambrose-sized desk and pound his fist on it like he’s some high-powered, impatient CEO.

Bring me my muffin, Brenda!

But more importantly, the weaning table teaches him the important lesson of how we eat: with real, breakable tableware and cups that spill if you tip them upside down.

How to actually use the weaning table? Good question. When it came down to it, I felt like there was a lot of information out there on the setup and less information on the actual ins and outs of getting started with solids the Montessori way. So let me try and right that by telling you what we did. (Also, I always feel like I’m winging the whole parenting thing, so take that with a grain of salt.)

As I mentioned last week, I sort of went with a combination of baby-led weaning and purees. Montessori is all about helping the child to do things for him or herself, and letting the child lead, so I kept that in mind. Ambrose was more into purees at first, so I started our first sessions at the weaning table by offering him small bowls of purees, set, of course, on a beautiful placemat with silverware and a shot glass cup.

As for the actual feeding process, I never really fed Ambrose, but let him feed himself with the spoon. Apparently this is an advanced thing, according to multiple Early Intervention evaluators? Whatever. Ambrose mostly knew to grab the spoon and bring it to his mouth, I think just from watching us eat a bunch beforehand. Note: I did, and still do, load the spoon for him. He hasn’t quite figured that part out yet.

As I mentioned before, it can get quite messy, especially with thinner purees. Sometimes Ambrose wants to feed himself using his hands, and I generally let him, though I always keep offering him the loaded utensil, and I draw the line at tipping the dishware over. If he insists on playing with his bowl or plate, I tell him as calmly as I can that I see he’s done eating, and then clean up.

Of course, it’s not always perfect in practice. It’s easy to look at Instagram and see these beautiful photos or stories of infants feeding themselves. Sometimes, like this morning, Ambrose tries to be done before I feel he should be, so I sit him back down and make him concentrate on his food. (He’s really into standing these days. I try to tell him that we sit when we eat, but at the same time, you choose your battles I guess.) Sometimes I just don’t feel like messing with the placemat.

As for drinking, it’s the same story. I offer him a shot glass of water at…most meals. For months and months he would just grab it and tip it upside down, but around the 8-month mark, I think, he finally got it. (Note: I also modeled to him how to drink from it.) He’s still not perfect with it…at all. In fact, I think I need to start being more consistent about offering it, because he seems to have regressed! Still, watching him pick up that stupid shot glass with his tiny hands and bring it to his mouth is just about the cutest thing in the world.

TELL ME THAT IS NOT THE CUTEST THING IN THE WORLD.

One final important tip: clean up at the end. It feels like I spend half of every day picking up Ambrose’s toys and picking sticky grains of uneaten rice off the floor, but I’m bound and determined to teach him that we clean up our messes when we’re done.

A TL;DR: Just go with it. Your kid will learn how to eat. And eat with him or her — don’t just watch, but model mealtimes!

As a bonus, I’ve put together a list of everything we use for mealtimes, below.

Montessori Weaning Table Starter Pack

  • Kid-sized table. We use this one. A lot of people use IKEA tables with the legs cut down to infant-sized height, but we’re not that fancy over here.
  • Kid-sized chair. This one has worked out just fine.
  • Kid-sized dishware. I sort of went overboard and got some clear glass ones from Amazon as well as a ceramic set from IKEA. I use both interchangeably. I love the size of the IKEA bowls and plates, but I think they break more easily. (Full disclosure: the two times we’ve broken bowls they’ve been dropped from the Stokke Tripp Trapp highchair we use when we want to have family meals around the big dining table. Yes, we do that, too!)
  • Shot glasses. Perfect for little hands! We have these, or something like them. Get clear if you can. Or just use your favorites from your bachelor/ette days… 😉
  • Kid-sized pitcher. This one has been great.
  • Kid-sized spoons (get lots). I got a smaller set of spoon/knife/fork/small spoon, but quickly found that I needed more than one spoon! So I ordered these espresso spoons off Amazon and they’ve been great.
  • Kid-sized forks. Optional — I only started offering these within the past month because Ambrose was interested in our forks and I figured he’s old enough to use them without stabbing himself in the eye. He uses ’em like a pro. The ones I found on Amazon aren’t exactly kid-sized, but  they’re smallish and work just fine.
  • Placemat. You can get fancy ones on Etsy with the outlines of everything sewn in to help your kid set the table when he or she gets earlier. Or you can do it yourself. Or you can just be lazy and use whatever you have on hand (that’s me!).
  • Vase. I’ve actually never set the table with a vase, but maybe I will some day. It’s just a way of adding beauty and respect to the meal, from what I understand. I just don’t have fresh flowers on me at any given time.
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