Kids in the kitchen: Independence is the main ingredient

When my three kids were younger my day would start at 5:30 am with breastfeeding the baby, getting the 2 year-old out of his diaper and figuring out what yogurt needed to be fed to the two and four year-old before it expired.

When I had at least five hours of sleep, I had a positive attitude and could even predict the colour cup ‘du jour.’ But when I woke up exhausted after a not-so-great night, I fantasized about the day when my kids would be more independent in the kitchen and I could drink my morning coffee HOT. Well, that day has arrived and now I’m faced with the challenge of giving up a bit (I mean, A LOT) of control over my tidy kitchen! I want my kids to be more independent without making it harder on me. I’ve started off by placing some apples, bananas and homemade snack mixes (read: Cheerios and sliced almonds in containers) on the table the night before. In the morning my eldest pours milk in cups for all three of them. Voila! A breakfast with four food groups and I don’t have to re-heat my coffee once. This is a major win!

I want to raise the independence bar once again. Wait for it… My kids will be making their own yogurt parfaits. Yogurt layered with granola and frozen berries. What could possibly go wrong, right?!

Little sisters preparing food with nuts and fruit

Tips I found helpful for making it easier for kids in the kitchen:

  • Keep kid-friendly cups, dishes and cutlery at a height where kids can safely reach them.
  • Use a low cabinet or drawer and a low shelf in your refrigerator for snacks and ingredients that your kids can reach on their own.
  • Stock your kitchen with whole grain crackers, trail mix, peeled hard boiled eggs, yogurt, sliced or cubed cheese, fruit (fresh, frozen, and dried), baby carrots and sugar snap peas so kids can choose from healthy foods that require little preparation.
  • Encourage your kids to pour their own drinks. Start with a small pitcher filled with water in case of spills.

Keep these things in mind:

  • Kids should be supervised while preparing food and eating.
  • Making mistakes is part of learning. Don’t be surprised when your kid accidentally steps on a peeled banana after it slips off the counter. (True story)
  • Kids are capable of being independent and gain confidence when they are successful: “Hey Mom! I discovered a new recipe: apple sauce in a wrap!”
  • Offer praise: “Apple sauce in a wrap? That’s very creative! I bet your dad would like to try that.” (wink wink)
  • Try to stay relaxed. You may find that your kitchen has seen cleaner days, but hearing your kid proudly say, “I did it all by myself!” is worth it.

We would love to hear from you. What are your tips for encouraging your kids to be more independent in the kitchen?

For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About this blogger:

Devon Clarke, RN – I am a Public Health Nurse and mom to three, lively children. I have been supporting parents and families for over 14 years and I understand how challenging and rewarding parenting can be. My time away from work is focused on my family and savouring those rare, quiet moments.

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