Put your children’s plates and cups where they can reach them.

If you’ve got kids, you’ve got plates, bowls, cups and silverware for kids. You’ll most often find these items emblazoned with a cartoon character on the top or side, smiling at you as you load Beauty and the Beast into the dishwasher.  (And, why is that they seem to endure forever when my Villeroy & Boch bowls get chipped all the time!) 

Kids’ tableware is often the most frequently used item in a family kitchen. In my house, a favorite cup is frequently washed, used, and washed again in a single day.  It’s enough to drive a parent to eat on that durn car-shaped plate herself!  (I’m talking in this post mainly to parents of the younger child variety, but the same applies for older kids and stadium cups and similar kitchen delights!)

Here’s Mora Babineau’s tip on how to shift some of that responsibility to the kids:

Move children’s plastic cups and plates to an area that can be easily accessed by them such as a low cabinet or drawer. Then they can help be more helpful in setting the table, emptying the dishwasher, etc – even getting their own bowl of cereal since they can reach the items themselves!
– Mora Babineau of Organize Me!, www.organizemenow.net

Score another one for the Corcoran family!  We actually went to this kitchen layout last year, but I cannot say it was because I am an organizing genius.  Nope. It was driven by the general lack of drawer or cabinet space in our must-be-remodeled kitchen.  I was looking for space in all the small places – and found some nooks for the girls’ items.Corcoran cabinet of kids’ plates, bowls and cups!

I’ve thrown in a few pictures because it illustrates JUST how creative I had to be. And, I think it’s a point worth adding – don’t limit your ideas to using the cabinet or drawer space you do (or don’t, in my case) have. I found an small wooden cabinet (previously used in a bedroom) and stuck it under a counter. Maybe you have an actual kitchen cabinet that you can free – if so, I’m moving into your house! Anyway, this little wooden nook is now where the girls’ plates, bowls and cups reside. What? Cups, you say? Yes! Move those from adult height to kid height too. Put all the kids’ stuff together in one place. It gets washed and goes right back in the cabinet…and your kids can put it there.  Placemats (yes, you have kid placemats too) get wiped down and go right on top.

Little drawer for little forks, spoons, and knives!I found the smallest, useless drawer for their silverware. Nothing is worse than a jumble of forks and knives, so I popped off the lid of some plastic containers and gave forks, spoons and knives their own little home.  Truth be told, my daughters can use adult cutlery but they like to have their own – and it’s pretty essential to learning how to cut with a kid-sized knife or avoiding yogurt spills before school by using a spoon that fits in your mouth.  Again, the silverware gets washed and goes back to its cozy containers in their wee, little drawer.

The pleasant surprise was that what I considered a “small space solution” facilitated a shift in responsibility to the kids because they have easy access to their items.  Even at 5 1/2- and nearly 4-years old, the girls now manage a lot of the daily in and out of these items.  If they are thirsty, they get their own cup and fill it. They set the table for meals – sometimes even fighting over who gets to set the table AND putting out our adult place settings too. Yes, I will enjoy these days while they last, which I know is not long.  They easily get their own silverware for meals or spontaneous applesauce cravings.  We hand them the dishes and cutlery from the dishwasher to put back in its home when we are all together in the kitchen.  And, as of the new year, I put a stool next to the sink and have the girls rinse their plates after a meal and put them in the dishwasher (a huge advantage to those being under the counter!)

Let’s get one thing clear – this does NOT happen all the time, nor am I touting the behavioral perfection of my kids!  The bottom line is, however, that changing their access to the plates, bowls, cups and silverware gave them a new-found sense of ownership over those items.  

So, kudos to Mora for passing on this tip – and good luck in your kitchen rearrangement adventures!

Alexa’s Signature 

p.s. I’m no professional organizer, but if I may add my own personal tip: you’ll also notice from the pictures that there is a uniformity to our kids’ kitchen items.  This is largely my husband’s influence – Rick has already blogged about his obsession with systems.  But I’m a convert!  Each girl got to keep two or so “special” plates as long as they stacked with the lunch plates (their choice: Dora and Disney Princesses). And, they each have a special cup plus a “frosted mug” that is unfrosted as you see!  Everything else is THE SAME and stacks easily in a snap. 

That’s also been a key part of the transition.  That teetering stack of differently-shaped stuff just won’t work.  So, throw out, recycle or donate the following:  free restaurant cups (that came with a straw you can never find), funky-shaped plates that never stack right, bowls that are at odds with other stackable bowls, old plates, cups or bowls that were warped by the dishwasher.  OK,  OK, for sentimental reasons, you can tuck away the little coated baby spoons that I’m betting are still in your silverware drawer.  Go uniform and you’ll find how easily things go in and out – in your children’s hands!

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