I wanted a more kid-friendly kitchen since we moved into this house five years ago. Last year, with two elementary-age kids and one preschooler, we thought it would be a terrific idea to completely overhaul the downstairs and make a more open kid-friendly kitchen design that would grow with our family.
I LOVE the end result and am grateful every day that we were able to create more social, open, family-friendly connection between the kitchen and other rooms. But it is not just the open floor-plan, I’m so happy with some of the smaller details we included to enable our kids to be bigger helpers in the kitchen — especially as they grow bigger and eat more.
Here are a few tips for kid-friendly improvements that don’t require a sledge-hammer and a general contractor:
Make helper jobs easier. Do you want your kiddos to set the table or make their own lunches? Create little work stations and keep the prep materials close by. Leverage shelves, drawers, and cabinets that you already have to invent these areas. Here’s a beautiful (like org porn level 10) example of allocating a few shelves in a standard pantry to kid food.
Put kid dishes in reach. We keep children’s cups and plates in a low drawer where even the two-year old can serve himself. I also store cereal on a low shelf and milk in a small pitcher in the fridge. The first fantasy is that we can sleep in while the kids make breakfast. The second fantasy is that they empty the dishwasher every day. We’re getting there slowly.
Give them a boost. Keep a kid-friendly step-stool nearby so small people are welcome to wash hands and prep food at the big sink. Ours folds flat for easy storage, but anything can work from those fancy learning towers with all the features to the tiny bathroom stools we already have for brushing teeth.
Hot water, trust me. Family-friendly means parent-friendly. I loved having an instant hot water dispenser in my last house but I am equally thrilled with our hot water kettle. This pretty capresso kettle gets used every single day for pour-over coffee, speedier pasta, wilting spinach, warming frozen peas, heating baby bottles, and hot tea.
Banish soft fabrics. For pillows and upholstered material, we love outdoor fabrics inside because they resist stains and spills and are much easier to clean. Right now, we have hard plastic stools in the kitchen instead of anything plush. No use crying over spilt milk.
Bigger bang for bigger bucks or “As long as you’re opening up the wall, why don’t you…?”:
Make helper jobs easier, part 2. We installed a ton of low drawers for lunchbox supplies, kid dishes, tupperware, and cloth napkins; each of the boys has table setting jobs. We installed the microwave within easy reach of our smallest child — though I must admit, he’s not fully trained on it yet. My older children can easily heat things — usually remembering to remove forks! — so I know he’ll get there soon enough.
Aim for easy clean-up. I won’t tell you which countertops and sink styles to buy, but do consider how durable vs. stainable different materials are. We purchased Quartz counters that can stand up to hot pans right out of the oven and the “overnight ketchup test” in which the counter surface is not irreparably stained if kids clean up the kitchen and I don’t visit until morning. Can your kitchen designer handle the truth?!
Imagine your line of sight. If you’re moving walls to modify your home’s flow, think about what the cook can see. Can you check out kids playing in the backyard or easily glance to see why it suddenly got so quiet. Do guests see your pile of dirty dishes when they open the front door (guilty!). Imagine different scenarios before you open everything up.
Think big. Is there one big improvement that would make your kitchen life happier? For me, I followed the recommendation of a trusted friend and got two dishwashers — we run both most days with all the lunch boxes. I went against that same friend to choose a red stove that I LOVE. For you it might be something like a fireman’s pole, commercial refrigerator, or full skylights. If you are dreaming up a room that you’ll visit every day forever, make sure to plan for your own happiness.
I’d love to hear your big and small design ideas to make a family-friendly kitchen work!
[All photos by Rookie Moms Heather Flett]