As a mother of three small children, I sometimes slip into day dreams about the days to come when they are completely independent. Days when there aren't as many messes and spills. Will there ever be a day when I get to eat my meal while it's hot instead of after I've cut little food up for little mouths? Everyone says I'll miss these days, but, in the thick of it, I'm having a hard time seeing it. I love that my eight year old can now cut his own pancakes and I can't wait til his sisters reach that independence milestone.
My children are far from the age of total independence, but so much of that independence can be reached with the smallest children. My three year old can meticulously fold her tiny laundry. My five year old can make her own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My eight year old can scramble everyone's eggs on a busy morning.
I thought I would share some of my favorite tools and tips for helping with independence in the kitchen. With the smallest tweaks, anyone can make their kitchen a place for kids to be independent (and safe!). Putting small plates, bowls and utensils on a smaller shelf within their reach makes all the difference in the world.
- Chopper - They use this tool to chop everything from strawberries to cucumbers, with no worry of cutting little fingers. This tool helps the littlest hands prep dinner and pack lunches.
- Step Stool - Things are obviously more accessible with the help of a step stool. (although, sometimes, it's easier to take prep work to the kitchen table for them).
- Glass Pitcher Hearing the words "Can I have a drink?" for the 100th time in a day can make anyone crazy. Keeping a small pitcher available in the fridge can be a sanity saver. (and when it's empty, water isn't available at that moment. A very natural way for them to understand waiting. But that's another post for another day).
- White Wash Cloths- Gosh, we go through so many of these each week. They are small enough to keep in a place that's easily accessible for kids to wipe up small spills. They are also small enough that children can easily be responsible for folding and putting them away.
- Small Glassware (bar ware and vintage water glasses are usually the perfect size for little hands. Goodwill always has a great selection). I love using real glasses for my kids because 1. It's just prettier. And 2. It helps them handle them more carefully. They understand that they are breakable and I've found there are much fewer spills when real glasses are used.
My favorite kitchen jobs to include my kids in are grating cheese (and let's face it, eating most of what they have grated), peeling fruits and veggies and chopping. With the right guidance and tools, kids can be doing these tasks with minimal supervision. Dinner time can be much more enjoyable when kids are helping instead of begging for a bowl of goldfish crackers.