Mama needs sleep. I have 3 children. I would have had more if it weren’t for the associated lack of sleep in the early years. Colic. Need I say more? Those were some dark days, my friends. See that kid up there? He likes to get up waaaayyy early. Like, before the rooster early. So, as soon as the kids were old enough, we encouraged them to make their own breakfast and turn on the television, so The Hubby and I could catch another hour or 2 of precious, life-affirming sleep. (Yes. I said turn on the television. The only thing that makes that flat screen worth what we paid for it, is its ability to babysit when we really need it to. And True Blood in high-definition – but that’s a WHOLE other post.)
A little independence goes a long way with children. If they learn to make their own breakfast today, who knows, maybe someday they’ll do their own laundry. In this, like all things, preparation is key. The same child who will root through your purse to find your lipstick, carry it into your living room and use it to write on your favorite chair, will not walk around a kitchen figuring our what to eat for breakfast. My husband and I organized our kitchen to make it as easy as possible for Kitty, Flap and Beans to prepare their own meal. It was surprisingly easy, and something that can be done in any sized kitchen.
1. Commit a lower cabinet to breakfast items. In our current home, during our kitchen renovation 3 years ago, I designed an area to facilitate the kids own meal making. One cabinet contains all the cereal. The drawer above it contains granola bars and dried fruit. An adjacent refrigerator drawer holds milk and bread. An open shelf above holds the bowls. (I refrigerate my bread – primarily because it protects it from the dogs.) Even if you don’t have a cabinet you can spare, dedicate a reachable “zone” for the kids’ breakfast stuff.
2. Put together a breakfast basket. If you can’t spare a cabinet, or you would prefer to control portions, a breakfast basket is another good option. In it, you can have granola bars, bowls, spoons, cups, individual servings of cereal (just pour some into plastic sandwich bags), washed fruit or whatever else your kids like to eat. You can also keep another basket in the fridge. Place the basket someplace with reach of little hands. You can see a great example of a snack basket at iHeart Organizing.
3. Containerize for little hands. The biggest disasters that occurred during these independent breakfasts was generally the spilling of milk or juice. Everywhere. It took me a little while to figure that it would be easier to dispense the milk or juice into smaller containers. (I used Tupperware bottles.) Even if they still spill a little, a cup of spilled milk beats a half-gallon any day. Keep these on the lowest shelf of your refrigerator or its door.
4. Introduce appliances at appropriate ages. Once my children were old enough to use the toaster safely – and now, the toaster oven – we were able to include things like frozen waffles and pre-sliced bagels in the mornings. Older children can even microwave oatmeal or cocoa.
5. Be prepared for things to
go wrong not go as you planned. One morning, we awoke to find that, instead of the bagel we had intended, our oldest daughter Kitty had eaten a container of whipped butter with a spoon. Fortunately, the extra sleep allowed us to deal with that appropriately. The milk will spill, someone will eat 5 granola bars for breakfast – whatever. Roll with it.
There is something to be said for getting out of bed sometime after the sun has risen to find your little cherubs happily ensconced on the sofa, bellies full, enjoying some Saturday morning cartoons. It should take less than an hour to organize your kitchen for breakfast success – and it will be worth it.
If you feel like you’re ready for the advanced version – teach them to make your coffee. And then tell them you’re having a contest to see who makes it best. I’ve got some pretty good junior baristas here – wink, wink.
What are your strategies for peaceful mornings?