Home Decor

5 Essential Tools for a Kid-Friendly Kitchen

May 20, 2015

As home cooks, we rely on our instincts, our knowledge, and our curiosities—but we also have to rely on our tools. Which is why we're asking the experts about the essential tools we need to make our favorite foods attainable in our own kitchens.

Today: Help your kids help themselves in the kitchen with these five essential tools.


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Gabrielle Stanley Blair is a designer and mother of six who founded the design conference Alt Summit and recently penned a book, Design Mom. She knows how to bring design and parenthood together to make beautiful, kid-friendly environments (in other words, she knows how to live with kids). Since we love the idea of helping kids help themselves in the kitchen (especially safely, especially if it means less work for us), we asked Gabrielle for some pointers. Here are the five essential tools that will make kids comfortable enough in the kitchen to become the best kitchen assistants:


1. Step Stools & Kid-Size Aprons
This is probably a no-brainer, but having kid-size items in the kitchen, like aprons and step stools, makes kids feel more welcome and communicates that you love to have them there, both to help out and to hang out with. Plus, aprons are practical. If your son just got dressed for school, but then wants to make a smoothie, donning an apron means he won’t have to make a last-minute wardrobe change if there is a spill (and there is always a spill).

2. Mini Masher
The house we rented when we lived in France had one of these in the kitchen, and we found it so indispensable that, when we moved back to the U.S., it was the first thing we purchased for our kitchen. We tend to use it for two things: making egg salad and making guacamole. Both of these items were hard for my kids to make until we found this tool. It’s just so much easier for a kid to handle than trying to smooth the eggs or avocado with a fork. And since we make both of those often, it gets a lot of use in our house.

More: Use a masher to make a springtime guac with peas.


3. Electric Kettle
This is another item I hadn’t used until we moved away from the U.S.—they just don’t seem to be as common here. But we love having an electric kettle! It’s a super fast way for my kids to heat water for hot cocoa, for their beloved Cup of Noodles, or for some tea with honey when they have a sore throat. And it feels so much safer for kids to use than boiling water on the stove or transporting hot water from the microwave to the counter.


4. Dish Towels
When you’re stocking a family-friendly kitchen with dish towels, go for bulk. Buy them in sets of three, or maybe five, or perhaps ten! You will need them all. Come to terms with the fact that cooking makes a mess, and that cooking with kids makes an even bigger mess, and then plan accordingly. Keep a generous stack of cleaning supplies on hand so there is always a fresh towel within reach.

More: There are a lot of ways to use a tea towel. Here are 7 ideas.


5. Cake Stand
Every family kitchen needs a cake stand because a cake stand makes any food feel like a celebration. I’m not exaggerating at all. You can set any baked good on a cake stand and it feels like a party. You can pile any fruit on a cake stand and it feels like a party. You can present a tuna melt on a cake stand to a guest of honor (maybe the birthday girl?) and it feels like a party. Items like cake stands make for a magical childhood and help a busy parent improvise on special days.

What kitchen tools have made your kids more at home in the kitchen? Share with us in the comments below!

Photos by James Ransom, Alpha Smoot, Mark Weinberg, Bobbi Lin

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • burning-ice
  • Pegeen
Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.


burning-ice May 21, 2015
I disagree about kids not using knives in the comment below. In my experience they should learn how to handle sharp knives - supervised, of course. Most accidents actually happen when working with knives with blunt blades.
And also - hot cocoa with boiling water??! Is milk now even taboo for children?
Pegeen May 20, 2015
I second the heaps of dishtowels, whether kids are helping you cook or not. However many you think you need, double or triple it. Aside from wiping up spills, we spread them on countertops to lay down just-washed cookware and utensils, so they can drip while we start drying all the washed gear with fresh dishtowels. Nothing worse than not having enough dry dish towels so guests can help you clean up.
I’ve easily gone through 20 dishtowels cooking a big dinner (including the washing/drying part), when one dishwasher is not enough. For hand-drying crystal and glass, linen dishtowels are preferable to cotton, because cotton leaves fibers.

Mitt pot holders in a smaller size for kids if you can find them. They cover more of the forearm, so are safer for small hands than square potholders.

Long, wand-style clicker lighter for lighting the birthday candles. Never matches.

Apple slicer/corer, so the kids don’t have to use knives.

Not the most “green” solution, but lots of paper towels so it’s easy to clean up messes quickly.

Camera / phone to take tons of pictures of the kids’ success!