The kid-friendly kitchen

Tired of kids underfoot or over-involved. We've got tips and tools to keep little hands safe and busy

Good news, ye weary! Meal prep doesn’t have to involve barely controlled chaos or an avalanche of dishwasher-faded plastic cups falling on your head. Here, a professional organizer, an interior designer and a kid’s cookbook author dish on creating an organized, kid-safe and design-savvy kitchen.

Kitchen design tips

1. Watch where you work. Then reorganize the kitchen accordingly, says Linda Chu, owner of Out of Chaos, a professional organizing firm in Vancouver. Store baking ingredients in a cupboard near where you roll out dough and locate knives where you chop, for instance.

2. Designate appliances as adult-only. It’s scary to see little ones (given their limited motor skills) with an electric mixer whirring away, says Jennifer Low, author of Kitchens for Kids: 100 Amazing Recipes Your Kid Can Really Make. Keep appliances out of reach.

3. Bring it down to size. “Most kitchens have high counters and sharp or heavy equipment,” adds Low. Consider covering a low play table with plastic wrap for kids to use as a food prep surface.

4. Think “island time.” Outfit your island, or an inexpensive wooden cart on wheels, with plastic cookie cutters and measuring cups so the children can work with you when invited, says Theresa Casey, a Toronto interior designer. Or fill it with craft supplies or pretend foods for wee ones.

5. Make it easy to be green. Everyone can help keep things tidy when you tuck garbage and recycling materials in pullout drawers, using divided, heavy-duty plastic garbage bins. “Richelieu has a wonderful, 24-inch-wide, four-way recycling bin for drawers,” says Casey. Also, drawer inserts make it easier to put plates and cutlery away.

6. Clear the deck. The area beneath upper cabinets is prime kitchen real estate, says Chu. Today’s under-cabinet cookbook stands, toaster ovens and microwaves help keep counters spotless.

7. Call the pros to contain chaos. Pretty baskets aren’t a good solution if you can’t get your stuff organized. Find a local expert at organizersincanada.com.

Kid-friendly cooking tips

1. Look for simple recipes. When kids can make things mostly on their own, it builds confidence and pride in cooking, says Low. Chilled, baked and microwaved dishes avoid stovetop hazards too. (Adults should remove food from ovens or microwaves, however.)

2. Think small. “Put vegetable oil in a small bottle with a spigot so kids can pour out limited quantities,” suggests Low. “On extract bottles, don’t remove the foil seal — pierce a hole so children can dribble them out.”

3. Consider ages and stages. Young ’uns can wash or mix ingredients, school-agers can open cans, and preteens can stir sauces. Avoid burns by keeping wee ones away from stovetops and microwave ovens.

4. Put ’em to work. Let kids read and assemble ingredients and put dirty bowls and utensils into the sink or dishwasher. Kitchen activities help kids feel involved and develop their independence, says Casey.

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