One of the things I did when we moved into our condo was to organize my kitchen with the girls in mind. The drawers under the counters in our new kitchen made this easier than the cupboards of our previous kitchen. Since then, I’ve greatly appreciated how creating a kid-friendly kitchen has helped my daughters learn responsibility and independence.
1. Make the Dishes Accessible
Most of our dishes are located in the drawer closest to both the dishwasher and the dining room table. All the girls (including two-year-old Pearl) can reach this drawer. Plastic dishes and cups go toward the front of the drawer, where the girls can reach them. The heavier ceramic plates and bowls go at the back of the drawer, where they are harder for Pearl to reach.
This allows the girls to set the table in the evening and to unload the dishwasher. In fact, even Pearl can set the table and has fun doing this! She’ll also help me unload the dishwasher.
2. Self-serve Breakfast and Snacks
Breakfast in our home is usually cold cereal. I keep all the cereal boxes in the bottom shelves of a cupboard, so that the girls can pick their favourite cereal every morning. They can get their own bowls and spoons out and serve themselves. The only problem is that when the gallon of milk is nearly full, none of them can pour it—so I could create a smaller pitcher of milk for the fridge to help them get breakfast.
Crackers and snacks are on the shelves just above breakfast food, at about eye-level for my four-year-old. Again, this makes it easy for them to help themselves when they are hungry.
In the fridge, the bottom drawers are stocked with apples, oranges, and seasonal fruit. When we get home from the grocery store, I rinse all apples, grapes, etc. with Produce Wash and then drop them in the crisper. That way, the fruit is ready for the girls to eat when they want it.
3. Water at Your Fingertips
Unless you are building your home or renovating, this idea is harder to implement. The water tap on our fridge has been a huge help here. Before, the girls had to get a stool to climb up to the kitchen sink to get a glass of water, or they had to ask for help. Now, they can grab a cup from the drawer and help themselves to water. This makes them more likely to have a drink when they are thirsty.
4. Safety First
While planning your kid-friendly kitchen, think about safety. My good china is in the highest kitchen cupboard. The knives go on the counter, where my kids can’t reach them (and I unload these from the dishwasher). I’ve taught my girls about safely chopping veggies but I still supervise closely if they are using knives.
One thing I don’t like about my gas stove is that the buttons and knobs are on the front, where even my 2-year-old can reach them. If we ever change the stove, I’ll get one with controls at the back, out of reach of young hands.
5. Don’t Forget Clean-up
When kids are in the kitchen, spills happen. Around here, we don’t cry over them. I keep a bucket of old wash cloths at the bottom of a closet near the kitchen, and paper towel under the sink. Whether the girls spill water on the floor or milk on the table, they can grab a cloth or paper towel and mop up the spill themselves (mostly).
For Toddlers: the Little Kitchen
For many years, we had toy kitchen in the corner of either the kitchen or the dining room. When each of the girls was about age two, she loved to play in her own kitchen while I was preparing or cleaning up a meal. This let them play close to me, while also keeping them out from underfoot while I was chopping veggies with sharp knives or working at the hot stove or oven.
The Results of My Kid-Friendly Kitchen
When we visited my mom and mother-in-law over Christmas, I realized how well my kid-friendly kitchen organization worked. At both grandmas’ places, the dishes are in cupboards above the sink—where most people keep them. Anytime the girls wanted a drink or a snack, I had to help them. Occasionally, I started to tell one of them to help set the table for dinner—only to realize that they couldn’t.
Our kid-friendly kitchen has given the girls some freedom and independence. They can help themselves to breakfast, snacks and drinks now, instead of asking for help. This is also a huge help to me if I’m busy with the baby or homeschooling.
Having a kid-friendly kitchen encourages the girls to help out more. While I implemented “kitchen days” only with my older two girls, I soon found that the younger two wanted to help out as well! They saw Sunshine and Lily setting the table and unloading the dishwasher and started asking for their own turn to do it!
My kitchen system has also helped with the “terrible twos.” Having snacks and dishes within reach means that when Pearl can’t tell me what she wants, she can still point to it. If I open the fridge for her, she can pick which piece of fruit she wants. She can get out a cup and indicate that she wants water. And she can pick her favourite cup, instead of wailing because I grabbed the green sippy cup instead of the pink.
What tips would you share for creating a kid-friendly kitchen?