Most parents feel a responsibility to keep kids safe in the kitchen, but once youngsters reach a certain age, they can take on more kitchen chores and simple tasks.
That age depends on the child, but it's usually about the time you determine they can handle dishes without breaking them. So, if that time is now, consider rethinking your kitchen space.
Four years ago, my kitchen got a mini-makeover. Before that time, we'd always carefully kept our breakable dishes out of reach of little hands. But once our three kids were a bit older (ages 4, 6, and 8), it was time for a shift in thinking — and of the cabinet contents.
We moved all of our plates and bowls (yes, the breakable kind!) to the bottom cabinets and our pots and pans to the upper ones. Thanks to this switcheroo, my kids were able to unload the dishwasher and put items away.
What started as a bid for me to get more help gave my kids greater freedom. Sure, they stowed dishes — but they also retrieved them to set the table or make a snack. They enjoyed getting more involved, and I felt less like an underappreciated short-order cook.
Another unexpected benefit: Our newly kid-friendly kitchen let my crew practice hospitality. After playing out in the yard, their entourage of pals often made a trek through our kitchen. Since we stored some cups alongside our plates and bowls, I was delighted to hear my kids turning on the tap and asking their friends, "Do you want ice with that?"
Here are five other kid-centric kitchen tricks:
2. Scissor prep. Equipped with a pair of round-tipped kids' shears, your helper can mince herbs like a pro.
3. Lego the table. To keep the waiting throngs occupied while dinner is in the oven, have them design and build a napkin holder, napkin rings, or a centerpiece with Legos.
4. Label leftovers. Call attention to lunch and snack possibilities in the fridge. Nontoxic dry-erase markers let you write relevant notes on containers and wipe the ink off easily.
5. Do rags. Teach kids to clean up their own spills with color-coded cloths, hung in an accessible spot.
6. Silver simplified. If you store your utensils in a sturdy bucket, kids can quickly unload them from the dishwasher and find what they're looking for at table-setting time. So long, silverware sorting — not that we'll miss you much!