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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Kids in the Kitchen: An Activity for Every Age

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

We spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Someone is usually eating, washing dishes, cleaning out the fridge, or doing a project in there. It’s the only room in the house that’s not carpeted, so it’s the one place where my kids are free to run with paintbrushes and play with water without me cringing. So on those days when the weather prevents us from going outside and the kids are getting cabin fever, off to the kitchen we go. It’s a never-ending smorgasbord of activities.

0-6 months

Before they could crawl, my kids spent a lot of time in the kitchen with me. One of the best sources of light in my house every morning is the sliding glass door at the back of the kitchen, and it served as a bili light when Baby T was jaundiced during his first week.
Baby T sleeping in the light from the back door
I would prepare meals with them snug in a baby carrier if they were sleeping, and they often watched me from the bouncy chair on the kitchen counter if they were awake and alert. (I’m not advocating using one of these devices on a surface like a kitchen counter, just recounting my life for you.)
Baby T in the Bumbo

During this in-between time when my kids were barely sitting up but not yet quite mobile, we would hang out in the kitchen while I cleaned. Once they could sit up, they would hang out in the Bumbo and “help” me with my sewing or play with the fruits and vegetables I was getting ready to chop.
Helping mama sew

6-12 months

As my kids became mobile, the kitchen became even more fun. I filled a cabinet with plastic water bottles, coolers, and thermoses. When I needed to cook or clean, I would open this cabinet and let the kids have at it. Baby T would play with water bottles for hours; Little M is a big fan of the pots and pans cabinet. I can tune out the sound of a heavy metal lid banging on the floor if I can get something done in the meantime.
Little M playing in the thermos cabinet
The dog’s dishes have served equally well as a source of entertainment. I don’t let the kids go near the water bowl without supervision, but when we’re all in the kitchen, splashing and throwing toys into the water dish is a favorite activity.

12-16 months

I haven’t yet gotten to this point with Little M, but the kitchen proved to be a source of entertainment as Baby T became a toddler. Sorting beans, oats, and flour kept Baby T (and the dog) busy when he was bored with everything else. I would sit him in his booster seat and give him a few cups, a bowl, a measuring cup, and a measuring spoon, and he would go to town. I would also sit him at the kitchen table with some washable markers, and he would paint foam pieces cut in car shapes and then wash them in bowls of soapy water.
This car wash turned into a baby wash.

He also began to become interested in food at this age, so meal times turned into a chance for me to get a few things done as he ate.
Yes--the truck is talking on the phone.

16-24+ months

My dad made Baby T his version of a learning tower when he was about 16 months old, and it soon became his favorite item in the house. He would beg to “do washing” and stands at the sink, pouring water from container to container or letting the bubbles from the dish soap glide between his fingers.
Baby T washing dishes
Baby T is quickly becoming more independent and loves to do things by himself, and I often let him use a dull butter knife to cut pieces of bread and soft fruits and veggies to help me prepare dinner. He can make his own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and mix up pancake batter and cookie dough.

We also take advantage of the easy cleanup to do projects in the kitchen. I’ll spread out a vinyl dollar-store tablecloth and pull out the paints.
Doing apple stamping on the kitchen floor

He recently began to put his toys on the kitchen table to play with them there; I think he likes being able to play with his toys at eye level.

Now that Little M is also a big eater, mealtimes have become moments when I can get things done. I hate to admit it, but I let them watch TV while they eat because it gives me a rare moment to catch up on work, put in a load of laundry, or unload the dishwasher without tripping on a crawling baby or stumbling over Baby T and his garbage truck. On the days Big T has to get ready for work after Baby T has woken up but while Little M and I are still sleeping, he can use this time to take a shower, iron his clothes, and get dressed.
Locked up

~Cringe!~ An example of a bad mommy

We have learned to make our kitchen work for us at every age. Whenever the time comes to upgrade our accommodations, maybe we shouldn’t be looking for a house with an extra bedroom or a playroom—we should look for a house with a bigger kitchen.

Since we're talking about kids in the kitchen, if you’re curious about baby-lead weaning, read my post about how to incorporate it into your life by really paying attention to what works for your family and your baby.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

I love how you've shown how kitchen play can be a journey throughout a child's life! We have a learning tower too, and Kieran has always loved getting up in the sink with me.

Momma Jorje said... Best Blogger Tips

What an awesome and broad post! I love a busy kitchen, though we don't spend much time in our own. We do like to sit in the kitchen floor to play with balls or rolling toys since the floor there is more conducive to such activities.

I think most moms are guilty of the TV distraction from time to time.

I especially like the idea of washable markers on foam that the kids can then wash themselves. That is SO cool! I had a little one that loved to tattoo herself with them all the time and also loved "doing the dishes" to "help" me. :-)

How do you get your kids to stay on the drop cloth? I love the IDEA of letting my kids get creative, but I don't trust my 2yo to stay put. I'm afraid she'll wander off and paint walls or something else. So on the rare occasion she gets to paint, it is in her high chair which has a really small tray. Help?

Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

I love seeing how your kids have grown up in the kitchen! We have a cabinet just like you do. Baby is obsessed with taking everything out and putting stuff back in.

teresa said... Best Blogger Tips

How much fun to have all those pictures!!!
I love the way you wrote this post too, by the ages.
And I have to say, that is the cleanest kitchen cupboard I've ever seen (with the water bottles.) It looks brand new. I never felt the kitchen was clean enough.
I really missed the boat with some of these things when my daughter was really little.

panda said... Best Blogger Tips

I love this! I'm.. erm... not as patient when it comes to pulling everything out of the cabinets, even though two are designated as "safe" and banging on... whatever... and making lots of... noise. Ha! My house is all hardwood, which is certainly better than carpet, but not as good as tile in the kitchen, and we're likewise having fun taking some messy activities in there. The dog is also loving as Niko learns to sort foods and becomes a picky-to-non-picky-to-picky-etc eater.

I think we'd all (okay, mostly, not all) be considered awful moms if we weren't given a little allowance of TV time here and there. I turn on SpongeBob or a music station for Niko when I'm dying for a shower. I think it's okay. He's not sitting there all day : p

Thanks for sharing! Especially all of the great pictures! said... Best Blogger Tips

Dionna - The only bad thing about the sink is that he likes the water on and it wastes water!

Momma Jorje - Yeah... he doesn't always stay ON the dropcloth. When he's painting, I do have to supervise. If I even leave the room to go to the bathroom or something, Baby T starts walking around the house with his paintbrushes in hand. But that's the beauty of washable paint. It comes off EVERYTHING with a little boiling water. So I don't really worry about him painting the furniture.

Charise - I wish my kids would put the stuff back in!!

Teresa - Ha! That cupboard has always pretty much been for the kids. We don't actually put stuff we use in there, just the water bottles (and the other side is filled with random craft projecty stuff... I hope Little M doesn't discover that anytime soon).

Panda - The dog thing is awesome, isn't it? I rarely have to bend down to clean up food.

Laura said... Best Blogger Tips

Sounds like my kitchen, too! That "helping" tower gives me such peace of mind... I can't tell you how many times I had to dive to make sure he didn't fall off in his excitement to see what was in the mixing bowl. Downside, he can now climb on the counters and speed my panic button when I see him "helping" :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

The truck talking on the phone is cracking me up. :) I love seeing kitchens getting really good use! I'm so envious over here with our crappy galley kitchen and just got sidetracked comparing the various Learning Tower-type stools to see if one would possibly work in our narrow space. How cool that you had one built for you — would your dad like to make one to fit our kitchen? :P

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