Thinking back to my childhood some of my fondest memories are the times I spent with my mom in the kitchen. I have an image etched into my memory of me standing in my “spot” at the end of the counter, watching my mom cook dinner. I also smile when I remember making snickerdoodle or spritz cookies with her. It’s one of the ways I learned to cook – by watching her while we talked. This is why I love to cook and want to create those same memories with my children.
Kitchens are more than functional space. These days we celebrate the kitchen as the heart of the home for many families. It is a place where people cook, gather, celebrate, play, create memories and share quality time together. It’s where that special ingredient, love, is found and shared.
The Army lifestyle of moving every few years means always having to figure out how to use space in different kitchens. Here are some tips on how you can make your kitchen the heart of your home:
Regardless of whether you rent or own your home, personalizing and organizing the space is important. Adding rugs, pictures, window coverings and other decorative touches to the kitchen will bring warmth and personality to the room.
Use the area above the cabinets to display collectables or decorative items. If painting isn’t an option, add color with accessories or pictures on the walls. Use wall space as a combo decoration/storage area. For more inspiration, check out these photos on corviasmilitaryliving.com.
Make the space work
Organizing the kitchen space is necessary for a sane and happy cook. Store cookware and utensils close to where you use them. For example, store dishes close to the dishwasher to make for easy unloading.
If you also have a kitchen gadget addiction (I confess I have a problem!), use drawer organizers to wrangle the little items; removable hooks on cabinet doors; and crocks or other containers on the counter for storage. I am sure purging those items I have never used also has value. And someday, we will all have this custom pantry in our kitchen, right? Just think of the storage space!
Cook with your children
Teaching your children how to cook helps build their confidence and self-esteem, but more importantly, it is quality time together. Whether you’re in Alaska, Kansas or Florida, making a home-made batch of cookies with your children makes it feel, smell and taste like home. And one day, they can cook for you! My first-grader is now able to read some of the recipes and do more of the gathering and measuring of ingredients. Incidentally, it may be more fun for me then her to cook together. Parents magazine has 5 tips for keeping these sessions safe and fun.
Share the space
The kitchen isn’t just for the cook. Encourage children to use a kitchen table or counter to do homework, color or draw while you are preparing a meal. Don’t forget to ask questions about their day or activity. Create a mini-office or family message area in the kitchen. Use the kitchen table for family game night.
Share a family meal together 5-6 days a week
Studies show there are physical, mental and emotional benefits of regularly eating meals together. According to The Family Dinner Project, dinners together lead to better academic performance; greater sense of resilience; higher self-esteem; and reduced risks of early pregnancy, substance abuse, depression, eating disorders and obesity. Thefamilydinnerproject.org has recipes, dinner games and conversation starters available on their website for families looking to connect with each other during dinner.
What do you like to do to make the kitchen the heart of the home? Post your ideas in the comments below.
About the Author:
Hi, I’m Michelle. I can be found during the day at a job I love with Corvias Military Living. I live in Kansas with my handsome husband and two lovely daughters. I am a working mom who cherishes time with my family, loves to cook amazing (and not so amazing) meals and I have an obsession with shoes and kitchen gadgets. Stop in to see me at the Fort Riley Corvias Program Office!