It’s time to set up your kitchen to help your children AND YOURSELF gain independence.  The worst power struggles are around what goes into and comes out of your children’s bodies.  The sooner you let go of trying to be in charge of these crucial areas, the better.  So let’s start with an area that will give your children the most satisfaction and you the most freedom.

Once you get the hang of following your children’s lead it will be easy for you to incorporate it in all areas of your lives.  The idea is to notice what your children do.  Children let us know through their actions what activities they need, and from two to six they are very interested in doing what we do. 

Think about what you do in the kitchen and set up parallel activities for your children.  If you cover all your bases and start training now, your children will soon be able to make their own breakfasts, snacks and lunches.  Keep in mind that this will take a good month of training as well as another month of regular practice for your children to master these skills.  Keep them up during the summer so that when the new school year rolls around you will all be good to go!

Your children will need a prep area that is their height.  A child sized table and chairs is preferable.  If space is limited you can pull a sturdy stool up to the counter.  

Designate a lower cabinet, just for them, with the gear they need to cook or prep.  In it keep a supply of their drying cloths, snack containers, cups, breakfast bowls, spoons, forks, basins and scrub brushes, whatever they might need.

Create a dish washing set up that can also serve as a veggie scrubbing activity.  The dish washing lesson follows below.
Prepare some easy to open containers with snacks in them both in the fridge and in their cabinet so that your children can serve themselves when hungry.  Designate an area or container in the fridge for their personal use. 

With younger ones (2-3 years) put one snack container out in the morning and another in the afternoon.  With older children (4 years on) put them out for the day.  Discuss what will happen if they eat it all early in the day (no snack for later).  If they experiment and chow down in one fell swoop, don’t moralize or “I told you so.”.  Be sympathetic if they are hungry and say, “Oh my gosh!, I’d be hungry too, would a carrot help?  I wish I could give you more, dinner is in one hour.”  ASAP have your children help you prepare the snack containers assembly style. 

Either set up a small screw top water bottle for each child or stock up on very small thrift store glasses.  Use little pitchers (half full).   DO NOT USE SIPPY CUPS!!!!!!  Although convenient they actually delay your child being able to drink out of a cup because of the way they have to be tilted back so far.  When they try the same technique with a real cup they spill the contents.   Be sure and use glass glasses.  They are designed for stability and teach taking care of the activity.  You will find your children taking great care and pride in serving themselves and others.

Set up a drinking station so they can easily get their own water and take it to their table to sit, practice pouring and drinking.  Take time for training, show them how to pour HALF a glass, put a colored plastic tape line on the cups to help. 

Stock the station with towels, one color for wiping table spills and drying their dishes another color for floor spills, the kitchen wash cloth size are just right.  Set up a short clothes line or rack outside so they can hang up their wet cloths.  Show them how to use clothes pins. 
Set up self serve breakfasts so your children can get going without you.  Stock their spot in the fridge with everything they need.  If liquid is part of the meal then of course you have pre measured it into a small pitcher they can manage on their own. 

Dish Washing Lesson  You need a basin for wash water, one for rinsing and a little drying rack.  Put diluted dish soap in a small dropper bottle.  Train them how to use the dropper, the trick is to squeeze and then let go of the bulb so the dropper will fill up.  Use a whisk to make the bubbles,  it’s so fun.  Cut a scrubber sponge in half to wash with.  Replace it monthly.   Provide a small pitcher so they can get their own water.  Take lots of time for training. Help them set up and do the activity until they understand it.   Show them rather then explain.
Set up the gear on their table and fill  both basins with warm water. 
Add a dropper of soap to the first basin and whisk to create bubbles.
Wash each item one at a time, rinse and place in the drainer. 
Dry each item with a towel.
Put away.
Empty the basins into a small bucket, one at a time to tote to the sink to empty. 
Dry and put away the dish washing set up. 

Yes, it’s a lot.  And it is worth it because if you get started at 2 1/2, they’ll have it down by 3-3 1/2.  Keep your eyes open for child sized basins, pitchers, buckets.  Bargain marts, dollar and hardware stores are great sources.  Be creative!!!  If you see something child sized pick it up.

As you prepare a meal invite your child to prep too.  Scrubbing carrots and potatoes with a clean nail brush is very satisfying.  Let go of the notion that what is scrubbed must be used for that meal.

Prepare a rack with child sized broom, mop, dust pan and whisk broom, feather duster, polishing and dusting cloths and show them how to use them.

Save cuttings from crafts and put out a small amount each day for them to sprinkle on the floor to practice sweeping.  Tape a small square on the floor with your colored plastic tape near their cleaning rack to sweep into.  Match the size of the dust pan, or a tad bigger.  Be happy when your children make a mess to practice sweeping.

Pay attention to what you do in the kitchen and set up a complimentary activity for your child to work along side of you.  If you approach your household chores with joy and enthusiasm, so will your children!   HAVE FUN!