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Giving Henry More Choices

In my ongoing attempt to give Henry more independence and responsibility in the kitchen, I decided to reorganize our cupboards. 

I have been meaning to do this for a while, but my motivation came while reading Amy McCready's book "If I Have To Tell You One More Time". I have really connected with her positive parenting approach. One of her recommendations is to empower children by giving them many opportunities to make age-appropriate choices throughout the day. I hope this lets Henry know that his input is valuable and respected. There are plenty of everyday ways to do this in the kitchen, such as offering him the choice between apples or grapes at breakfast. 
Henry chose grapes for breakfast.
McReady also acknowledges the importance of a child's environment for fostering independence. When a child can access things they need by themselves, then they can play an active role in making decisions about what tools or equipment they need to help contribute to the family.
Henry's new cupboard space in the kitchen.
In the kitchen, I wanted to implement this strategy by giving Henry his own cupboard space. We don't have a lot of extra room, but I moved things around so that our kitchen island cart is now dedicated to Henry's cups, bowls, plates, wiping cloths and aprons. 

I set up the space while he was napping and introduced it to Henry as we were getting ready for dinner. He promptly removed everything from the cupboard, but then he helped put everything back. Daddy was apprehensive that Henry would repeat this dismantling at every opportunity, but so far that has not proven to be the case. Now Henry knows exactly what is in the cupboard and where each item belongs.
Henry inspects his new kitchen storage area by taking all his dishes out of the cupboard.
After a little over one week of using this set-up, Henry is excited to pick out his own dishes at each meal. I've noticed that he has definite favorites. He never chooses the small plates I had been using to serve his afternoon snacks but really seems to like one particular orange plate. He also wants use a bowl at every meal.

Daddy and I were so inspired by our experience in the kitchen, that we have now reorganized Henry's bedroom too. I moved Henry's fall and winter clothes out of his closet to an easy-access cupboard so that he can start choosing his own outfits. This time, Henry helped put the clothes in the cupboard so he would know the contents of each shelf -- pajamas, shirts and pants. We also placed Henry's socks and shoes in a basket on a bookshelf so he can select his favorites. His hats and coats hang on a toddler-height hook by the front door so he can grab them when we go outside.
Henry is choosing his own outfits now, and he's starting to show interest in learning how to dress himself.
The biggest challenges for parents is that you have to be willing to live with your child's decision. I don't mind if Henry's clothes don't exactly match or if he wants to use a yellow cup instead of a blue cup with lunch. As with letting Henry decide how much to eat (or not eat) at each meal, I think it's important to give him the tools he needs to start making small decisions. Hopefully when he's older, he'll be ready to tackle bigger decisions for himself.

How do you give your toddler opportunities to make choices in the kitchen and throughout your home?


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