Little Chefs – Grand Designs
The kitchen is the beating heart of the home; a space in which the whole family comes together to eat, socialise, entertain or do homework. But when it comes to its original purpose – a room in which to cook and prepare food – it’s too often viewed as an adults-only zone that’s fraught with dangers such as hot pans, sharp knives and boiling water. On the contrary, integrating your kids into kitchen activities can accomplish a number of short-term goals and lead to long-term benefits. First and foremost, you can spend quality time with them while they learn lifelong culinary skills, and you’ll eventually be rewarded with a valuable little sous chef who can lend you a helping hand when the pressure is on. Further, developing an appreciation for nutrition and a healthy relationship with food begins in the kitchen, which is why it’s so important to get your children involved in the joys of cooking from an early age. Self-esteem, creativity, independent thinking and a sense of discovery are all heightened in the kitchen, and the skills they build there will improve their wellbeing long into the future. Creating a fun, functional and child-inclusive kitchen requires some careful
planning and designing, and the implementation of a few key strategies. Here, Queensland Kitchen + Bathroom Design explores the steps you can take to get your little ones excited about opening up the cookbook. The first step to getting your children enthusiastic about cooking is to give them their own workspace. A well-designed and -positioned island bench promotes connectedness and collaboration, which makes it the perfect anchor point where little chefs can gain some hands-on experience. Your island bench should be wide enough to accommodate you and your helper standing side by side, with adequate floorage for a chair or step stool if required. You could even consider lowering the bench – or at least a section of it – to a height your child can easily reach. “Whenever a client says they love to cook in the kitchen but want to keep an eye on the children, I suggest [including] a lower bench as an extension to their island bench,” says Katia Slogrove, the design manager at Germancraft Cabinets and winner of the Kitchen Designer of the Year category at the 2017 Kitchen & Design Institute of Australia
(KBDi) Designer Awards. “Lower-style bench extensions are very popular with our clients and we have [created] unique design variations to suit [different families]. It’s a great way to utilise the space; you don’t need to buy a dining table and the kids can comfortably sit close by.” It’s also important to think carefully about the surface material of your island bench. As your child learns the ropes in the kitchen, you’ll inevitably encounter some smashed utensils and messy spills, so it’s wise to opt for a substrate that’s durable, easy to clean and stain resistant, such as stainless steel or engineered quartz. “The most practical surface is reconstituted stone from well-known brands such as Quantum Quartz, Caesarstone or essastone by Laminex,” says Slogrove. “These brands [specialise in] brilliant-quality reconstituted stone, which [is low maintenance] and very durable.” If you’re in the market for something a little more affordable than brand new countertops, consider crowning your island bench with a heavy-duty butcher’s block. If you embrace the unavoidable scratches as part of its charm, a butcher’s block is an inexpensive option that provides your child with a designated workspace to call their own.
SPICK AND SPAN
Cleaning up after oneself is an important life skill that goes hand in hand with being responsibleand helpful. While it’s not always easy to get kids excited about household chores, there are a few simple tips and tricks you can utilise to ensure your kids not only cook in the kitchen, but clean it, too! Composting is a great, hands-on way to dispose of food scraps while teaching your child about the environment and how to identify biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. Keep a bowl or container on your kitchen counter for disposable food scraps, which your child can empty onto the compost heap or garden once full. Perhaps your burgeoning environmentalist could take ownership of the composting process completely by decorating the compost bin with their favourite colours, stickers or patterns. Installing lowered hooks that sit in alignment with your child’s height will allow them to easily reach tea towels when the time comes to wash and dry the dishes. Dish washing improves the fine motor skills of young children, and will encourage learning as they play with the water and bubbles! Further, teaming up to wash and dry the dishes is a highly collaborative task that affords plenty of time to communicate and laugh with one another, and you’ll both share a sense of satisfaction once the job is complete. If you want your kids to help wipe down the benches and clean up spills, then it’s wise to invest in some child-friendly cleaning products instead of handing them the toxic chemicals that may be lurking beneath your kitchen sink. There are plenty of eco-friendly disinfectants available at the supermarket, but you can also make your own with a few common ingredients from your pantry. Spend a fun-filled afternoon with your child mixing safe, homemade cleaning solutions with white vinegar, lemon juice and bicarbonate
of soda, and bottle your concoctions in brightly coloured spray bottles as an exciting finishing touch.
MAKE IT FUN
If there’s one certifiable way to get kids engaged in anything, it’s with fun! Whether this means your child has their own colourful measuring cups and spoons, or a monogrammed apron or tea towel, it’s important to cultivate a cheery and welcoming space they’ll feel a part of. Hanging up a large chalkboard is a simple and effective way to encourage kids to participate in the kitchen. Use it to write notes, shopping lists, and inspiring quotes, or simply let the kids exercise their artistic flair! When you sit down at the beginning of the week to plan the family meals, consider involving your child in the brainstorming process, and use the chalkboard to write up the day-to-day menu. If you have a blank wall to spare, you could even paint it entirely with chalkboard paint, which would give you a floor-to-ceiling canvas. If your kids have a favourite recipe, why not make it official by inscribing it in big, bold text? Be sure to purchase a box of coloured chalk and store it in a nearby basket so that your kids can doodle on the chalkboard wall as they come and go. When they
begin to develop incredible culinary capacities, you can chalk it up to your child-friendly kitchen! There is a huge variety of children’s cookbooks currently available, with recipes that range from easy three-step classics to more sophisticated dishes for mini chefs. While kids can learn basic techniques simply by cooking alongside you, presenting them with a collection of kid-friendly cookbooks that appeal to their interests will make them feel independent, empowered and inspired!Set up a little library on the kitchen bench, along with pens and pencils to use for any scribbles or annotations. If your child tends to absorb information more easily from
instructional YouTube videos rather than traditional books, you might like to set up a mounted iPad on the bench, as well. A tray that’s laden with fun grab-and-go activities can be a lifesaver when you need to keep younger kids occupied in the kitchen. Cookie cutters and Play-Doh will give them a feel for the joys of baking, while a food-themed colouring book will help familiarise them with the various ingredients they will inevitably come to use. Creative activities such as these will encourage your children to associate the kitchen with imagination and exploration, which will serve them well down the track when they begin experimenting with new recipes, flavours and foods.
THE LONG AND SHORT
Food may nourish the body, but time spent in the kitchen creating and connecting with loved ones nourishes the soul. From planning and decision making to emotional bonding and nutritional knowledge, ensuring your kids get involved in the kitchen and in what they eat comes with a plethora of benefits that will assist their cognitive, emotional and physical development. Whether your kitchen is large or small, there is a wide range of steps you can take to encourage your kids to embrace the space and get cracking on those culinary skills. “The ideal layout of a kitchen varies from family to family,” says Slogrove. “However, a long and deep island bench is always a winner no matter the size [of the space], while a butler’s pantry [will allow you to] basically make a mess while your kitchen stays beautiful!” Whether you opt for a complete redesign or simply decide to include a few kid-friendly features, your new child-inclusive kitchen will be the perfect space in which you and your little one/s can while away the hours making wonderful memories – and meals!