Sometimes it's the simplest things in life that mean the most.
An activity as seemingly simple as scrubbing a potato actually holds countless cognitive, physical and emotional benefits...
...and something as simple as a novel shape for a brush can be enough to capture a child's interest and draw them towards that activity!
That's why I love the cute and quirky potato brush!
Many fresh fruits and vegetable can benefit from a scrub before consumption just from a hygiene perspective. This is certainly the case for potatoes, especially if they are going to be baked with the skin on.
I particularly enjoy presenting potatoes for scrubbing when they are still wonderfully dirty. And I mean that in the very literal sense that they are covered in dirt! Seeing potatoes still covered in soil provides a really strong visual and tactile reminder that the majority of our food comes from the earth. These potatoes don't just magically appear in the shop - they started their lives beneath the soil and had to be dug up to get to us!
So in that we find one of the the emotional benefits of introducing potato scrubbing to a child. He or she is able to feel more connected in the process of cultivation and preparation. The idea of 'earth to plate' becomes more apparent and helps the child to grow up with a greater sense of respect for our world and its resources.
The physical benefits of scrubbing potatoes primarily relate to coordination and fitness. If you've ever tried scrubbing a whole bag of potatoes at a time you will know that it can become a physically demanding process! Young children who begin with a bowl full of dirty potatoes tend to be naturally motivated to persist until they are left with a bowl of clean potatoes...and to achieve this goal a great deal of physical perseverance is required! The child's little muscles work eagerly to scrub away the dirt and reveal the fresh skin beneath.
The cognitive benefits relate to the process that is involved. The child must recall and identify the necessary tools and place these out on the workspace. The task is simple yet multi-faceted enough to allow even a young toddler to independently recognise the needed tools. These usually include two bowls, a colander (or strainer), a tea towel and the scrubbing brush. The two bowls are placed side by side with the potatoes placed in the one on the left. Water is placed in the second bowl. The strainer sits to the right of the two bowls with the tea towel underneath. The child sets about working - transferring one potato at a time from the bowl on the left to the bowl of water. The child scrubs the potato in or above the water, dipping the brush as needed, before placing it in the strainer to dry. As the child repeats this process he or she is moving from left-to-right, training the eyes and the mind to follow this pattern...which will eventually be utilised when reading and writing!
And, as a teacher, I have to list one final benefit - financial savings! Anyone who runs a Montessori classroom will know that it can become quite challenging to continue to afford the amount of fresh fruit and veg that is required to offer meaningful cooking experiences. Yes we grow an edible garden, and we accept donations from generous parents, but inevitably there are days when the fridge is bare and the petty cash is running low. Potatoes offer an excellent solution to this because they are cheap, come in 'bulk', last a long time and can be used for a variety of different activities.