The Pantry Project: Setting up your pantry to be safely accessible to your children (Guest post)

littlekidIt’s something I did not understand until I had my own children…well, until I had my own two boys under two years old. First of all, no one prepared me for the bitter reality of the grocery bills that are necessary to support the toddler who I swear is bound to eat me out of house and home. Granted, his baby brother is still breastfeeding, but with two of them on my hands who knows what will happen.

It hasn’t taken me long since having my second child to realize things will never be the same as they were before. Those seemingly luxurious one-on-one snack times before naptime are a thing of the past these days, and while my toddler is adjusting (better than I, I might add), there are some things we needed to change to help that happen.

It only took a week or two for me to understand that I needed to rethink my approach to the pantry to allow my older son to access his usual snacks without necessarily involving me in the process. As I did so, here are a few of the things I kept in mind:

Safety first. Everyone’s approach to baby proofing is a little different. For us, we’ve opted to batten down the hatches, locking every nook and cranny, to avoid the inevitable emptying of the Lazy Susan throughout the house. You only need to find a can of peas in your underwear drawer once to know this is necessary. Assuming your pantry is a place your child knows his or her way around, make sure the space you designate for them is at a safe height and includes child friendly items. It may go without saying, but this is not the place for your guilty pleasures, whatever they may be.

Make it kid-friendly. A clever idea to keep things organized is to use clear packaging that allows your child to easily identify what’s inside. As children mature, labeling large containers with what is inside is also another good idea. If there is something a grumpy toddler likes, it’s exerting his or her free will to chose something like sweet potato puffs over pretzel sticks. Embrace that by giving them a variety of their favorites to choose from in containers they can easily navigate.

Pint-sized everything. Offering a wide variety of accessible options for the independent child is a great first step, but you also need to be sure to incorporate vessels for eating the aforementioned foods. Bowls and child-friendly silverware are two things to keep in mind, in addition to sippy cups and napkins.

Don’t forget the mess. The other day my toddler spilled the entire contents of a packet of applesauce all over our carpet. Busy feeding my newborn, I didn’t react. That is, until I saw what happened next. My toddler ran to the kitchen to collect a discarded burp cloth and used it to wipe up the mess. It wasn’t perfect, but if there is a time to embrace the “thought that counts” concept, this was it. Incorporate some wash cloths and napkins into your child-friendly pantry space – you might be surprised by what happens as a result.

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