What I really love about both Montessori and Waldorf education, is the value placed on children participating in daily tasks, like food preparation and cooking. I try to find ways for my children to help in the making of meals and snacks. Sometimes they ask to help, sometimes I ask them to help. Some of the ways they participate are: setting the table, spooning food onto plates, counting out food for each person, cutting, spreading, measuring, washing and cleaning up. At this age we give them the responsibility of clearing their things (plate, utensil, cup, napkin) from the table and bringing it to the kitchen counter after eating. The rest is encouraged and appreciated but not required.
I just snapped this picture today of my daughter slicing apples into tiny pieces for a young toddler visiting in our home during snack time. She had gotten out her board and knife on her own and started to cut up the apples to give our visitor before eating her own snack. It never ceases to amaze me that when I take the time to teach these skills they will so eagerly use them. It is moments like these that validate the time spent introducing the skills, providing the materials, and creating a pace slow enough to allow for these opportunities.
This is the knife my daughter uses for food preparation. It was found at our local food store and comes with a small cutting board. It is safe enough for her to use independently. There are a lot of child friendly utensils out there (with adult supervision of course). I really want to get one of these soon.