Montessori Learning: How To Use A Kids Dishwashing Station For Sensory Play

How can you introduce this beautiful sensory table into your own home to reap all of the Montessori-inspired benefits?

Montessori dishwashing station

If you’ve ever observed a Montessori classroom for young children, you may have noticed the way the children have snacks. 

Montessori students as young as 3 years old get the dishes they need, serve themselves snack, eat with a friend, and wash their own dishes.

It is quite an orderly process, especially compared to what you might picture when imagining a preschool snack.

When a child first joins the Montessori classroom, one of the first lessons they will be taught is how to prepare themselves a snack and clean up afterwards. 

The child is shown how to scrape excess food from their plate into the compost or garbage, how to scrub the plate in soapy water, how to rinse the plate in clean water, and how to dry the plate with a small towel or place it on a drying rack. The child is also shown how to sweep up any crumbs and how to wipe any spills with a sponge or towel.

If you’re imagining the other children eating off of dishes cleaned by a 3 year-old, fear not! The dishes are of course re-washed properly in hot water by an adult. So what’s the point?

As with so many activities for our youngest tots, it is all about the process rather than the end product.

Through serving herself snack and cleaning up after herself, the child learns independence and a sense of responsibility and self-worth. Young children also experience the first glimmers of deep concentration through repeating purposeful, ordered processes such as washing dishes.


How can Montessori classroom lessons be brought into the home?


The Monarch Studio outdoor/ Indoor Double Sink Mud kitchen is the perfect way to aid your child in building independence in the home environment. It’s got ample space for them to set up everything they need and even little wall hooks to hand their towel to dry afterwards.

Whether or not your tot has attended Montessori school, they will love taking ownership over their own dishes. It’s funny to us as adults that something we consider a chore like washing dishes could ever bring someone joy, but young children love to feel useful and they thrive on purposeful work.



The Monarch Studio Outdoor/Indoor Double Sink Mud Kitchen

The Monarch Studio outdoor/ Indoor Double Sink Mud kitchen





If you choose the Dishwashing Station for your own tot, here are a few tips for success when it arrives at your home:



  1. Give a silent lesson


Montessori teachers of younger children are trained in something called the “silent lesson”. This means the teacher uses very little language when showing a child how to do something like wash his own plate. She moves slowly and precisely, making eye contact, but not explaining every step verbally. 

The purpose of the silent lesson is to support concentration, as young children are often distracted by too much talking. The silent lesson also creates a sort of majestic atmosphere though in which it feels like you and the child are the only ones in the world. 

Children focus so deeply in this type of lesson that you will later see them precisely copying your actions – even something that was not part of the lesson like scratching an itch!


  1. Don’t hover


By its very nature a dishwashing station for children invites the possibility of mess.

There are some things you can do to control the mess such as providing only a small amount of water to fill the basin. However one thing you should not do is hover over your child imploring them to be careful and wiping up every little spill they make. There are few things that could hinder their focus more or make them lose interest in the task!

Instead, try observing from nearby or even working on your own task to keep yourself from interrupting. As long as the child is working purposefully, try not to interrupt them. (If they’re dumping water on the floor on purpose, that’s another story!) 

Instead, help them notice any spills when it becomes clear that they’re done with the activity. You might ask, “do you see any water spills?” You could also show them how to notice wet spots on the floor and talk about the importance of drying them so no one slips.

Cleaning up after finishing their work is considered part of the work cycle in Montessori and it is often where the most growth and learning occur.


  1. Explore the possibilities


Once your child has mastered dish washing, don’t be afraid to think outside the box! 

In Montessori schools, young kids clean all sorts of things throughout the classroom, not as a chore or punishment, but because they love it and choose the work. 

Your tot might enjoy giving a baby doll a bath in the basin.

They might like to give their bath toys or sandbox toys a good scrubbing.

You might introduce a water transfer activity, such as using a water dropper or turkey baster to transfer water from one basin to the next. 

You can show your child how to wash their paintbrushes in the basins after finishing an art project.

Toddlers and young kids are known for being somewhat messy and chaotic, but the truth is they crave order. Providing them with tools that are just the right size for their tiny hands and demonstrating for them how to complete a process in an orderly way gives them a great sense of joy and accomplishment.


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