One of the favorite places in my house is the kitchen. Big surprise, huh? I’m sure it’s that way for many people. It’s where you cook, bake, nibble, eat, chat about your day – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s #1 on my list as far as the room we use most often.
If your home consists of little ones, I think having the kitchen be a fun space is very important. Our kitchen was never off limits to our children when they were growing up and I feel that by making it an inviting place for them, we opened up lots of learning opportunities to them.
Here is some of my favorite ideas — they are nothing overly unique, but they worked for me when my kids were little (some we still do with Mattie who is our youngest at age 9) and perhaps one or two might be a new idea for a mom or dad of a little one:
- Keep small portions of pre-washed, pre-cut veggies and or fruit handy in a covered container in your refrigerator, or on your kitchen counter. Make sure that your children knows that these are available for them at any time if they are hungry.
- Even if you have child safety latches on most of your kitchen cabinets, consider having one cabinet, shelf, or drawer that is unsecured. Fill it full of your unbreakable bowls, storage containers, cups, etc. Investigating the cabinet each time will be a fun activity while parents cook.
- When you taste food as you are cooking, give tastes to your child if they show an interest and if it’s practical. By doing this, you are allowing them to experience the cooking as it happens – letting them connect flavors with the sights and smells around them.
- Have alphabet magnets or other similar items that can be played with on the front of the refrigerator or dishwasher. If you like to keep these things uncluttered during most of the day, store the magnets in a box and pull them out just when you are cooking.
- Give your child opportunities for planning meals. Let them to pick what they would like the family to eat. If you know you will be having a frozen vegetable, pull out a couple different packages and ask them to pick which one they would like to have. Let them pick the type of pasta. Or if you will be having mashed potatoes or baked potatoes.
- Keep a child’s step stool in your kitchen and bring it out when you cook. Kids want to see what’s going on and by having it handy, you can help them satisfy their own curiosity, plus they will learn by watching you up close.
- Have a small table where the kids can work on projects in the kitchen when you are cooking. This is especially handy if having your kids help cook isn’t an option. You can have special crayons and coloring books that are just for use during “kitchen time”. Or, put together a playdough bin – a plastic storage box with playdough, a placemat or two, a rolling pin, plastic cutting tools, etc. Bring these things out when you are cooking, put them away when you are done.
- Consider painting a section of the kitchen wall or some cupboards with chalkboard paint or hang a large chalkboard within your child’s reach.
- Let your child help in small ways at first, then add more complicated tasks when he or she grows older and more adept. Even a very young child can stir (cookie dough or cake batter is the most fun), help wash fruit and veggies, decorate cookies, top a pizza and more. Just remember, you aren’t looking for perfection – it’s just a small way to let them experience cooking and baking — and more importantly, be with you.
With all of these ideas, you will always want to pay great attention to safety. I trust you’ll take the necessary precautions for you and your child. But I’m sure you’ll agree that with some thought and playing, you can help make your kitchen a safe, child-friendly place; a place full of memories and fun.
These are few things that worked well for us…what’s worked well for you?
(Be sure to check out Works-For-Me Wednesday to see what’s working for other bloggers!)