The kitchen is the family gathering space, the room where you spend precious time together and debrief after a long day. Unfortunately, it probably contains more hazardous items than every other room in your house combined. You could put child locks on all the cabinets, keep everything sharp or breakable out of reach, and call it a day—but that’s more of a kid-proof kitchen than a kid-friendly kitchen. So what extra steps can you take to make your kitchen not only safe, but inviting?
Occupy Them with an Activity Area
After a full day, you’d probably rather relax on the couch than make dinner, but those hungry kids have to eat! Cooking can be the most stressful part of the day, and if your kids are making sure to interrupt you every few minutes, it only gets more stressful. But you can provide them with tools to entertain themselves right by your side—rather than underfoot.
Make sure you have a low, accessible table or countertop they can use as an activity area. Leave one of the lower cabinets unlocked, or remove the door. Then stock it with Play-Doh, crayons, coloring books, and board games. Hopefully, that will help them forget about their growling stomachs, at least long enough for you to put food on the table.
Give them a Little Autonomy
If your family tends to eat a late supper, maybe you’ve worked out a snack time that tides them over. If your kids are old enough to make certain decisions about their food intake, put some healthy snacks in their accessible lower cabinet, along with some plastic plates and cups. Make sure they know they can only pick one or two items (depending on the size) during snack time, and let them retrieve the snacks on their own.
When your kids have reached the point of wanting to do things on their own, they may not want you cutting up every bite for them. Thankfully, there are kid-safe knives that actually cut effectively thanks to plastic, saw-like teeth.
Set up a Mail Center
The kitchen tends to be a catch-all for bills and other boring grown-up things. But instead of letting your family-friendly eating or activity area get overrun with mail, notes, and important documents, set up a mail center that will keep everything organized. Get hanging sorters and designate a higher one for your important items. Hang others within reach of the kids and use them to store artwork-in-progress, homework or forms that need to be turned in, or even encouraging notes.
Get Kid-Sized Supplies
If your young kids are at the age where they want to help mom and dad clean or cook, they probably are better at making the mess bigger than actually lending a hand. This is endearing, but not great for productivity. Give them the satisfaction of helping out with a miniature broom and dustpan or mop and bucket, or even their own silicone baking supplies.
Child Lockout Settings and other Safety Measures
It’s not enough, however, to give your kids safe ways to entertain themselves. Ultimately, the kitchen is a place full of sharp corners, sharp instruments, electric appliances, cleaning supplies and hard surfaces. If your kids spend a lot of time here, chances are they will have an opportunity to get their hands on one of these things. To prevent this, look for appliances with child lockout settings. Make sure to lock cleaning supplies in the cabinet, or keep them where only adults can reach them. Use a stove guard to keep the burners off-limits. If you’re looking to replace your floor, get something textured like vinyl or cork, which is less slippery when wet than other types. Instead of using a freestanding step-stool that could tip over, build one into your design.
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