Kid-Friendly Kitchens: Tips and Tricks

Julie Scelfo


Encourage children to help with meal prep while keeping hassles to a minimum with tips, equipment, and layout advice from designers and clever moms.

Create a View

An essential feature of a kid-friendly kitchen is that the adults using it have clear sight lines to watch their offspring. Meg Rogers says that when she's planning a kid-friendly kitchen, she thinks about all the different places where Mom and Dad might need to keep an eye on the children, whether in the same room or down the hall. Are you building your house from the ground up? If so, consider putting the kitchen where windows will allow you to simultaneously cook and keep an eye on kids playing in the yard.

Make It Welcoming
Consider decorative elements that appeal to the whole family. For a family in Manhattan with five children, Celerie Kemble wallpapered the back wall with a gigantic map of the world. "They can pin into it current-event issues or where they're traveling," she says.

Also don't forget to display a few objects that help make the space welcoming, like favorite cookbooks, souvenirs from trips, or even photographs. "A kitchen needs to be a pretty place that's warm," says Kemble. "A modern, technical kitchen loses something to me."

See more: 5 Common Recipe Mistakes

A few shelves of open storage are ideal for displaying what Kemble calls "pretty things that make you feel in the mood to be in your kitchen," and can help it look "less like a place for surgery and more like a place where you can sit in your underwear and T-shirt."

For her own kitchen, Meg Rodgers used chalkboard paint on all sides of a vertical column so each person has a designated side for messages. "If someone has been away, we'll write 'Welcome home!' If my son wins a baseball game, my daughter will write 'Congratulations!'"

Think Forward
Kids grow fast, so "you want to design something that can grow with them," says Meg Rodgers, who always reminds clients that a high chair is only needed for a relatively short time. Add extra seats so when they're older there will be room for their friends. Use adjustable-height shelves in the pantry that can go low when children are little and higher up when they're not. Install a refrigerator drawer for after-school snacks that can double as a refreshment center when your kids play high school sports and you host fund-raising dinners. In short, you want your kitchen to "serve a lot of different phases of your life," she explains, and not just the one you're in right now.

Art House
The kitchen is a natural place for many parents to show their children's artwork, but take it from the pros: Sticky tape alone won't keep the kitchen looking good.

Celerie Kemble likes black and white frames with an easy-to-open toggle on the side so you can continually update the display with their latest masterpieces.

She also started using her glass-fronted cabinets as a makeshift gallery. "I actually tape children's art up inside the cabinet facing out," she says. "It hides my mess of coffees and teas, and it's a nice little showcase for the kids' art. And the papers aren't peeling up and getting dusty and oily."

Another way Kemble celebrates her children and other family members is to pin up holiday cards on the back of her spice cabinet door-and leave them hanging all year. "People come over and they go check-'Wow! I'm still there!'" she says.

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White Is All Right
To those who are afraid of installing an all-white kitchen, Kemble likes to point out that white is one of the only colors that can be cleaned with bleach. In her book Black and White (and a Bit in Between): Timeless Interiors, Dramatic Accents, and Stylish Collections (Clarkson Potter), Kemble shows an array of all-white or mostly white kitchens and explains how the simple color palette can provide a high-design bang for your buck. "Nothing's better than old-school subway tile with dark grout for a cozy kitchen that takes a beating," she adds. Subway tiles, she says "are still classic" and provide "instant warmth."

Don't Be Ruled by Childproofing
Take steps to keep your children safe, like avoiding sharp corners on tables and countertops, and installing flooring that isn't slippery. But don't be paranoid about allowing them to do basic tasks that, with a little instruction and guidance, they can quickly master.

"A lot of people are so preoccupied with babyproofing, they basically put an electric fence around one of the places that's supposed to be family central," says Kemble. "Having a child feel autonomous in the kitchen goes a lot further to making the kitchen their house too."

Besides, why shouldn't kids pull their own weight around the house? "I'm not a waitress, I'm not a busboy," says Kemble, expressing a sentiment shared by mothers everywhere. "I'm their mom, and I'm there to include them and help them take care of themselves."

See more from Epicurious:
Make a Better Roast Chicken
Easy Family Dinners
25 Sandwich Makeovers
How to Eat Your Spring Veggies





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