One of the things that has been MOST helpful to me, was encouraging the independence of my daughter in feeding herself. She started to want to do things like make her own sandwich at lunch or get her own water. To help encourage this, I made a few changes to how our house is set up.
Utensils & Dishes
Many people set up a drawer for kid friendly items for babies to play with. I set up a drawer for all the “kid” dishes. In the beginning it was all unbreakable, but since I’ve started migrating from plastics, it’s about 1/2 glass — but sturdy glass, like canning jars :). It contains numerous cups, snack bowls, cereal bowls and plates for them to use. In addition, I also moved the kids silverware to the front of the silverware drawer for easy access.
We taught them how to use the water in the door of the fridge. I know. In a related move, I moved the microfiber towels under the sink so they could also clean their own messes. It happens. Frequently :).
Practice Simple Food Prep
We’ve also been working at teaching my 5 year old how to cook/prepare food more on her own. She is required to cut her own food at the dinner table (except steak). She makes her own breakfast except on days I cook something for everyone (weekends, usually) — cereal, yogurt & granola, breakfast bread & fruit, etc. She also prepares her own lunch on the days she chooses a sandwich over leftovers. I’ve also been showing her how to heat up things like pizza in the toaster oven.
In order to make things even easier (for both of us), we have also instituted a self-service policy. I have a whole shelf in the fridge door of items she can serve herself and eat whenever she is hungry. It holds milk — enough for a bowl of cereal for each and a glass of milk for each — string cheese, pickles, yogurt, jam (for PB&J) and other things. The fruit bins are at the bottom of the fridge as well for easy access and with a stool, she can reach the meat and cheese drawer for sandwiches and snacks as well.
In the pantry, there is a similar set up. I have a basket with food items for them to eat as snacks — peanut butter (for PB&J), crackers, dried fruits (prunes, raisins, etc), trail mix in little bags, granola bars (on occasion – though we usually save those for errands), and nuts.
Not only does setting it up that way reduce the “what can I eat” question, it also makes it so that I don’t have to get up and get it. I don’t know about your kids, but they NEVER ask me to get them something to eat while I’m already around getting things for others. They ALWAYS ask after I have finally sat down for a minute to eat myself or rest. Always.
Additionally, when the baby comes, I’m considering a mommy snack bin in the pantry with high protein snacks for mom that the kids can bring me when I’m nursing. They are already able to refill our water glasses with the fridge and I think Bones is plotting stealing a corner of their shelf in the fridge so they can bring him beer this summer :).
This post is part of the Prepping for Baby Series — check out the full list of posts!
What other things do you do to make it easier for small children to feed themselves?