We are not a “cheerfully-cook-a-healthy-homemade-breakfast-every-day” kind of family. My kids like to eat as soon as they wake up, and I need some coffee in me before I’m ready to start the day. So we set up a fully self-serve breakfast area in our kitchen so I don’t have to do a thing — the girls often have their entire breakfast sitting at the table before I’ve finished making my coffee. Here’s how we set up our kitchen so non-morning people like myself can have a slow start to the day while hungry children can take care of their own needs right away.
The first thing you need to do is make sure your child’s dishes are accessible. Most of the time, parents put all the dishes in the upper cabinets because that’s just what we’re used to. But kids can’t reach that. We set aside one lower cabinet to hold all of the dishes the girls might need — plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, silverware, etc.
Since we’re setting this up specifically for complete independence at breakfast time, you also need to make sure any breakfast foods are reachable. For younger children, I would only put out a small amount until they are used to getting themselves an appropriate serving size. My girls have been doing this for a long time, so they already know our limits.
In our house, breakfast can consist of:
1 choice of bread-y breakfast item: this can include cereal, nutrigrain bars, frozen waffles, frozen pancakes, frozen muffins
1 choice of fruit: this can include any fruit in the pantry drawer of the fridge or an applesauce pouch
We keep applesauce pouches and breakfast bars in a low drawer in our kitchen, and kitchen tools for the girls are kept in the drawer right above that.
We make large batches of mini muffins and peanut butter banana pancakes and freeze them for later use. The girls can easily reach into our freezer drawer to choose a mini muffin, pancake, or blueberry waffle (straight from the grocery store) to heat up for breakfast.
Our helper tower stands permanently at this little breakfast station on our countertop so the girls can easily reach the toaster oven to heat up frozen muffins, waffles, or pancakes. The girls have practiced many times and know the order of operations for using the toaster oven safely by heart:
- Open the toaster oven.
- Put item to be heated on rack.
- Set the timer [usually for 5 minutes, and the temperature is already set].
- When the toaster oven dings, put on oven mitt.
- Open toaster oven, use oven mitt to pull tray out slightly.
- Use pinchers to transfer hot foot to plate.
- Use oven mitt to push tray in, close toaster oven door.
The tower also helps them reach the cereal dispenser. For younger children, I would put a number card or card with a certain number of dots to tell them how many turns to twist the dispenser for an appropriate serving.
Our lowest pantry drawer in the fridge contains snacks the girls can choose, such as fresh fruits and veggies, cheese sticks, and single-serve yogurt containers.
Finally, we keep the girls’ milk pitchers on the lowest shelf in the door of the fridge. One of my girls needs lactose-free milk, so we mark her pitcher with a ribbon.
When the girls have finished eating their breakfasts, they put their dishes in the dishwasher and we are ready to begin the day!
Suggested products to support independence in your child’s breakfast routine:
I was talking with some friends from Afghanistan the other day when the topic somehow turned to pancakes. I asked what some traditional Afghani breakfasts were, and they described something they translated as “sugar cheese” and promised to make it for us next week. That gave me this brilliant idea: What if we [you and I] put together a recipe book of our own countries’ traditional breakfast foods? I know that I have readers from all over the world, and I would love to hear what you eat for breakfast. Email me with your recipes and photos and country of origin, and I’ll put it together as a printable “Breakfasts Around the World Recipe Book.” For free! [Not just for email subscribers.] I’m in America, and I’ll be submitting my amazing peanut butter banana pancakes. Will you join me???
Send me your recipe here: firstname.lastname@example.org