If you follow my Facebook page, you will know that housekeeping is big on my moan list ' I just cant keep everything tidy' is rgularly muttered, uttered and sometimes shouted! But my kitchen whilst small is the one area I NEED everything to work smoothly, my kitchen is small but light airy and has a good feel to it. Thing is, real family kitchens are more about people than stuff. So you don’t need major building work or a huge space to create one, just a bit of imagination, some perseverance and a little patience. .
1. Get everyone interested in what’s cooking
Every family kitchen revolves around sharing food, so take that back to its most basic level and get younger kids involved in doing simple prep like washing lettuce, chopping carrots or learning to set the table. Older children are up for making easy dishes and much keener to sit down at meal times if praise is on the table. And teens find it a lot more difficult to sulk over an hour’s phone-separation if they’re on board to find an interesting recipe, source ingredients and take part ownership of family dinner.
2. Go open-plan if you can
The dream family kitchen would be big enough to fit in some comfy, lounge-around space. But if that’s not an option – like our kitchen – what about flowing your living room and kitchen together? It doesn’t need to be permanent. Internal bi-fold doors let you have big, open-plan space for family time and personal space when you want. They’re also great for family get-togethers and parties. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t dream of having the perfect ‘extended family kitchen’ where everyone comes together to celebrate?
3. Make wall space matter
Think about putting up a large noticeboard in the kitchen and giving everyone some personal space to show off, express themselves or just get organised. A magnetic board with plenty of room lets younger kids hang drawings, older children can put up timetables or party invitations and the whole family knows who’s doing what and when. It’s a simple focal point in a family kitchen that really works. And giving someone the responsibility for making sure everything’s kept up to date makes it fun.
4. Put everything on the table
Every family kitchen needs a place to gather with enough room for everyone at once. An extending, traditional kitchen table is great if you’ve got the space. Alternatively we have a breakfast bar which can work just as well to let you keep an eye on homework and a cookie cutting five year old while you’re prepping dinner. Make good use of chopping blocks to keep messy little ones away from older kid’s maths’ problems and art projects.
5. Introduce some flexible thinking
In a recent interview, Maya Rudolph admitted to having a TV in her kitchen tuned to Turner Classic Movies in the hope ‘some Cary-style cool’ rubs off on her four young kids. You might not have those aspirations, but TV isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it makes the kitchen more loved and used. And it doesn’t need to be on all the time and definitely not during mealtimes. If you feel really strongly about the kitchen being a media-free zone, compromise with music. Older kids and teens will be happy to make up playlists and it’s a chance to find out who’s listening to what – you could even pick up a bit of parental cool in the process.
6. Grow your own space
If your kitchen opens out on to the garden like ours think about maximising potential there. External glazed bi-fold doors create light and space instantly, give your kids more freedom and make an outdoor room for family meals or barbecues that’s part of the family kitchen, but independent too. Plus, if you’re keen to get your children really interested in food, planting some container gardens for herbs and veggies will get them really hands on
7. Start as early as possible
The best family kitchens evolve and it’s never too early to make yours part of everyday life. Have a kitchen play area for babies and toddlers and they’ll develop a healthy attitude towards cooking and eating naturally. Use the room for creative fun and it will have good associations. Read stories and have quiet time in the kitchen and it’s somewhere your children will always feel comfortable and happy. We have activity boxes which can easily be brought in, with moon dough, or colouring in etc
And don’t forget the whole point is to make a ‘family’ kitchen, so ask the family for their suggestions too. You might start off with ‘snack drawers’ and tea time text breaks. Just be patient, the compromise is probably an ‘approved’ snack shelf and regular movie night.