Kitchen Kid Cupboards
Kitchen Kid Cupboards are low cupboards - or drawers - that toddlers and young children can easily access. They are stocked with nutritious, healthy snacks and beverages as well as kid-friendly dishes and utensils. With a Kitchen Kid Cupboard you are, in effect, offering nutrition more often than the typical three meals a day for the much smaller stomachs young children have that do better with frequent, smaller "meals," without you needing to be constantly creating the sustenance they require. Beginning in toddler-hood, children yearn for and thrive on an emerging sense of independence. They gain confidence and self-assurance when they can do something as simple as get their own dishes out of "their own cupboard," helping to set the family table. Making simple choices - as in this example which dishes they wish to use - adds to their feeling of personal empowerment. When their body feels hungry, the ability to choose a snack independently will bring delight to little ones, and a feeling of appreciated ease and self-resourcefulness for older children, as food access is often, traditionally, in the adult-controlled-domain-only turf. Through all of this a sense of pride in self and ability develops; a happy feeling of self esteem grows. Such a sense of being a contributing member of the household as well as their developing self-care is empowering and will reap rewards both immediately - as whining and angry outbursts are often directly related to hunger! - and later, when as older children and teens they will be faced with very big decisions in which a strong, empowered sense of self in the world will be invaluable. The ability to make healthy choices for ones' self and ones own body is a paramount life-skill that can be fostered early in seemingly simple ways.
A Kitchen Kid Cupboard can be one that is specially designed for this purpose.
Or it can simply be a child-accessible shelf in a bank of kitchen cupboards, or even a drawer.
A Kitchen Kid Cupboard can also be a creative use of another found-object, like this old-school bread box with a roll-top lid. Super cool feature for preschool ages and up. Toddlers may experience difficulty managing opening the lid, which would defeat the independence-building-accessibility purpose.
Depending on your comfort level of your young ones using breakables, your floor coverings (tile floors break dishes much more readily than some other kitchen floor surfaces, for example), your choice to avoid plastics in your home as much as possible - bamboo, wooden, metal, melamine or silicone dishes, (sometimes sold as "camping" dishes), can all be used as alternatives to plastics - whichever dishes you choose to stock your kid cupboard with need to be ones you are completely comfortable with the children using independently.
Child-sized utensils, with built-up handles for the youngest ones, can be really useful in aiding the growth of independence. I recommend using a small container - basket, wooden bowl or metal cup - to corral the little cutlery!
A Kitchen Kid Cupboard is stocked with healthy, nutritious snacks and beverages that you feel fine letting your children help themselves to at any time of the day. For every family what determines a "healthy snack" may vary. It will depend of course, too, not just on family preferences, but also on the children's developmental levels - both for the toddler or child's readiness in eating certain items, as well as the accessibility of the packaging or the need for requesting help and, of course, their particular likes and dislikes.
In my world kid cupboards have known to be stocked with a variety of choices including small jars or baggies of raisins or other dried fruits, a nut and seeds mix, (extra fun for little ones is to help mix up the nuts, seeds and dried fruits of their choice!) rice crackers, granola bars, seaweed and single serving juice boxes, (though I do not much like the excess packaging of these last items and tend to make or "package" our own). Note: perishables are not great in a Kitchen Kid Cupboard as sometimes things get "lost" in the back recesses and then science icky-ness happens. Will you try it? Will you take the plunge and allow the littles in your life to grow their independence in the area of food choices? For some parents this may feel like a massive leap. I can tell you that I created my first Kitchen Kid Cupboard when my baby was a toddler - that was over 30 years ago. In more recent years for my grandchildren, nieces and nephews and young ones in my care, having a Kitchen Kid Cupboard has been a detail of amma's house that continues to bring smiles, even as my grandchildren enter their late childhood and teenage years. Happy, independent-when-they-want-to-be kids, happy me!