By Stacy Burnett
Inspired by my collaborator Audrey’s post on making it easier for kids in the kitchen, I thought I’d share what we’ve done at our house to make the transition for our 3 and 5-year-old to all non-plastic plates, cups and bowls – all for about $100**. (**Full disclosure: I did use a few coupons and got one or two things on sale.) I know $100 might be a chunk to lay out all at once, but dishes, glasses and utensils get used so frequently that this project gives us a lot of bang for our buck. I know Audrey covered so many great products in her post and she inspired many of the things we incorporated into our project. I don’t know about your house, but in our kitchen we don’t really have a good base cabinet for all the kids dishes. We thought about using a shelf in the pantry, but then decided to buy bookshelf and put it at the end of our kitchen island. I wasn’t sure how it would work with the dishes exposed, but so far it’s working really well. With their dishes and utensils within their reach, it’s easier for our kids to help set the table, get a glass of water, and even unload their dishes from the dishwasher on their own. I snapped this photo after we set it all up.
Here’s what we did. First: a trip to IKEA.
We purchased this shelf for $29.99 (regularly priced $39.99). It also comes in white and birch. If you don’t have time to wait for a sale, check out their as-is room. You can also sign up for an IKEA Family card that entitles you to a few bucks off regularly priced merchandise every month. If IKEA doesn’t fit with your decor, you can find similarly sized shelving units elsewhere. The key is to keep the height around 30″.
Second: a trip to Cost Plus World Market. On top of the shelf we’ve got a set of twelve 8″ salad plates from Cost Plus World Market. These are $19.99 and they come with the stand. These work well at lunch and dinner. In one of the cubbies there are Coupe cereal bowls great for cereal, oatmeal, and soup, and also square tasting plates that work well for toast, bagels, rolls, etc. At World Market I also purchased a utensil caddy for the kids utensils and napkins. For all these items, I used a 15% off coupon that I received via email for signing up as a World Market rewards member. Also on the top of the shelf we got these glasses from IKEA, a set of four for $4.99. We like these because they’re sturdy and they have a integral line in the design that helps the kids know when to stop filling. These are super affordable so if one breaks it’s not a crisis and they’re easy for us to replace. If you don’t have an IKEA near you, World Market and For Small Hands also sell something similar. We already purchased a few of these pitchers which have been fantastic for the kids. I used a tray we already had to set the glasses and water pitcher on.
On the bottom shelves, we have tools the kids can use to help with food preparation. We’ve got two small cutting boards (found ours at Ross), and a rack made for cookie sheets that we use as a cutting board rack (also from Ross). You can find these on Amazon or in any home good store. For tools, the kids have a small hand-held grater, a wavy chopper for $3.95 (perfect for chopping vegetables and fruit) and a few assorted kid-sized tools like a wisk and spatula to help with baking. There are many more kid-friendly kitchen tools out there. For Small Hands is a great online resource for kitchen tools and utensils sized for children.
All told, between shopping and assembly, this took about two days to pull together. It took a few days to reset the family’s muscle memory of looking in all the old places for their dishes, cups and utensils, but now with everything in one place things are running smoothly. Having the dishes exposed isn’t such a bad thing after all. We could have used something like this when the kids were younger. The low, open shelves make it really simple for them to access their own dishes and put them away, and I love that they can get a drink whenever they need to without asking for help. I imagine we’ll be able to use this arrangement for some time and can replace small dishes and glasses for larger ones as they grow.
Like my friend Audrey said so well, we can’t do everything Montessori, but we can all do something Montessori. Anything, big or small, that we can do to increase and encourage self-sufficiency at home is a step in the right direction. We look forward to posting more ideas for other ways to support your children’s independence at home.