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How to make your kitchen more kid-friendly - without changing everything you love about it

You don’t need to cover the whole place in bubble wrap, promises Emily Westbrooks.

Image: Shutterstock/Olesia Bilkei

THE KITCHEN IS often described as the centre of the home, and this will be especially true if your family includes small children who require an outrageous number of meals and snacks throughout the day.

I have two very independent toddlers who have been known to drag their high chairs over to the kitchen cabinets to snoop at the spot they know I hide the treats. In fact, on one particularly sleepy morning while my husband and I hit the snooze button a few too many times, we arrived downstairs to find they had discovered a brand new box of ice-pops in the top freezer drawer – leaving only a pile of wrappers behind.

If kids are on your horizon, or if you’re currently looking at a baby who’s likely to start crawling soon, you’re probably wondering how to keep those things from happening.

Kitchens are certainly busy rooms, but they can also be tricky areas to baby-proof without losing the essence of your welcoming, practical comfortable space. Luckily, I’ve managed to defend my kitchen from intrepid toddlers while also maintaining the functionality of the room. Below are some tips to do the same in your own home…

When all you want to do is keep them safe

shutterstock_1555416071 Source: Shutterstock/Ekaterina Pokrovsky

1. Keep dangerous items secure – but still accessible for adults: I’m not a fan of baby and child-proofing options that you can see, or that are too tricky for even adults to quickly overcome. But for items like knives, medicine or toxic cleaning supplies, you’ll want to get an extra layer of security. Knives can be kept in a drawer secured with a drawer latch; this box is a good starter pack for baby-proofing your kitchen.

2. Create snack autonomy with easy access to healthy options: Offering easy access to healthy snack options can keep your little ones from trying to scale the presses to find the chocolate buttons. It’s not a guarantee, but it can offer them a feeling of autonomy that can help keep them from getting into mischief.

3. Put kid-friendly plates, bowls and utensils at kid level: Giving kids the opportunity to get into certain items can quickly make them feel like they have a part in your kitchen as well. We not only allow our kids access to their own plates and cutlery, we often ask them to retrieve it if they’re asking for a snack.

When all they want to do is make a mess

shutterstock_1337540018 Source: Shutterstock/Halfpoint

4. Offer them a spot at the sink: Since a very young age, my kids have been stationed at the kitchen sink whenever I need them out of my hair in the kitchen. In fact, I set them up there whenever I need a moment of peace elsewhere in the house too. Offer them some measuring cups and plastic items they can fill and pour with water.

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5. Show them the Tupperware drawer: When my kids were even younger, they were introduced to the Tupperware drawer, for an opportunity to play with as many plastic containers as their hearts desired while I cooked or cleaned. If you have the room, you can also create a cupboard full of options for your little one to explore while he or she is crawling around the kitchen. It will keep their frustration down if you’ve secured the rest of the presses with safety locks.

When all they want to do is help

shutterstock_767959132 Source: Shutterstock/Halfpoint

6. Give them a step stool or learning tower: I often remind myself when my children are whining to see what’s on the counter that it must be really frustrating to them that they are kept out of the kitchen loop simply because they’re so short! So I offer them a step stool or a chair they can stand on to get a better view of what I’m up to. A learning tower or kitchen helper (like this one) is another option that can keep your child safe while they stand at the counter. They’re a bit pricey, so if you’re a bit handy, you could DIY this Ikea hack version.

7. Or create a spot they can sit safely: Our kitchen is too small for a cumbersome kitchen helper stool set up, so I set the kids up at the counter on bar stools (which, thankfully, have wipeable covers!). They can colour or play up there while I cook, or I often use it as a spot for us all to bake together as they’re at the perfect height for helping pour and stir ingredients.

8. Invest in kid-friendly knives: Kids can get involved in food preparation remarkably early. My three- and five-year-olds love to sit on the bar stools at the kitchen counter and use kid-friendly knives to chop. It keeps them occupied (and therefore out from under my feet), and it might even train up little sous chefs before too long. We have this set and neither child has so much as scraped a finger.

More: The kitchen essentials you should always invest in (and a few to pick up as cheaply as possible)>

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