Family Friendly Kitchens
"I have three children and they have countless cousins. They come and make pancakes crowded round the great big worktops in our Johnny Grey kitchen. Cooking is something all of our children love to do, and I'm sure that is primarily because of the way our kitchen is designed and the way it encourages us to live." - Tiffany Brunskill, Bath

Kids, cooking and kitchens. Three words that even sound like they belong together.

Creating spaces that cater to all members of the family - not just Mum and Dad - is an essential ingredient in designing a sociable kitchen. And cooking together is one of the most sociable activities there is!

Here we present a series of kitchen furniture for kids, taking our three Obama conceptual kitchens as the starting point. Below you'll find five sketches from Johnny Grey Studios designers and five design-inspired recipes from C'est Si Bon cooking school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

In addition, we've created a list of tips on how to design family-friendly kitchens, how to use them, and last but not least, how to teach kids to cook in them. The tips on cooking with kids were provided by Dorette Snover, founder of C'est Si Bon.

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Appliance Garage

Appliance Garage

Design Description:

A children's circular appliance garage. An eye-catching piece for storing small appliances at children's height so they can be used without plugging in or moving them first. Made from flexiply in walnut and oak. Design led by Miles Hartwell of Johnny Grey Studios.

Decadent Brownie Recipe:

C'est Si Bon offers this recipe to make with small appliances (we're thinking a professional-type stand mixer) at children's height so they can be used without plugging-in or moving them first. Young hands, minds and mouths love to make these signature brownies with the addition of extras, such as milk or white chocolate, peanut butter chips, coconut, nuts and dried fruit. Recipe by C'est Si Bon, adapted from Richard Sax's book, Classic Home Desserts: A Treasury of Heirloom and Contemporary Recipes from Around the World.

Childrens Workbench

Children's Workbench

Design Description:

A curvy work bench for younger kids. A simple and elegant table made from one piece of curved flexiply featuring an end-grain chopping block, a place for the family pet to sleep and a dinner bell. Made from ex-fruiting coconut trees. Design led by Miles Hartwell of Johnny Grey Studios.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls:

We love the idea of wrapping these rice papers on the curvy work bench and using the end-grain chopping block piece to do the initial "soft" prepping of the cucumber and carrot with a vegetable peeler. Except for the cooking of the Chinese sausages (which can be done in advance), this is a perfect recipe for the youngest members of the family, even as young as three, with supervision and guidance. Recipe by C'est Si Bon.

Tulip Storage Stem

Tulip Storage Stem

Design Description:

Tulip storage stem. A witty piece that can be placed in a picture gap between large items of furniture. It can be used to display a children's fruit bowl and favorite objects or home made art. Made from painted tulip wood and ash. Design led by Miles Hartwell of Johnny Grey Studios.

Cheese, Tomato & Onion Frittata:

This frittata is made with young cheeses, bright tomatoes and cipollini onions. C'est Si Bon pictures the beautiful, edible heirloom-variety cherry tomatoes, displayed in the White House Victory garden. Frittatas, and other egg dishes, are quick summer dishes that combine perfectly with the abundance of the garden. Think tomatoes, peppers, and delicate cheeses, and, for the adults, a light rose wine. Recipe by C'est Si Bon.

Kitchen Whatnot

Kitchen Whatnot

Design Description:

This "Kitchen Whatnot" is a freestanding, multi-purpose, can-do piece for all those peripheral activities that kitchens have come to symbolize: the harbinger of food to come with its bell and menu board; the fresh fruit and veggie of the day baskets for encouraging healthy eating, and a coat stand to throw your apron or jacket onto, so they are always visible and close at hand. Design led by Kevin Hackett of Johnny Grey Studios.

Pear Omelet with Gorgonzola:

This warm and oozy, fruit-imbued omelet made out of an assortment of quirky ingredients is C'est Si Bon's culinary version of the Kitchen Whatnot. Once brought to the table, it would be fun to hand one of the diners the kitchen shears and chives and let them do the garnishing. Recipe by C'est Si Bon.

Mobile Workstation

Mobile Workstation

Design Description:

Teenagers' mobile work station. Soft shapes for easy maneuvering, pull out additional work surface, end grain chopping block and prep sink, compost drawer and space for bottle storage. This is a mini-professional cooking device. Made of American hardwoods, oak, walnut and maple with a marble area for rolling pastry. Design led by Kevin Hackett of Johnny Grey Studios.

Provencal Onion Tart:

Teens are ready to explore, whether in the kitchen or on foreign shores! It is so worthwhile to see their faces light up when they witness the yin and yang of salty vs. sweet in this classic Provencal recipe, from Erick and Madeleine Vedel in Arles, France.

Pissaladiere is a nicoise onion tart usually eaten as an appetizer, but can also be served as a side dish. In Nice, it is often sold in individual portions by bakery shops and you can find it at tiny stands on your way to the beach along the Cote d'Azur. Recipe by C'est Si Bon.

Work Surfaces: Just the right height

Work Surfaces: Just the right height

Provide low level work surfaces starting from around 650mm (less than table height). They can used by adults as a place to put big appliances or tall receptacles, such as mixing bowls.

The position of prep surfaces should enable children to have eye contact with adults and each other. Keep several wooden cutting boards so prepping can be done in different spots.

Some kitchens are now being designed with adjustable height surfaces. New motors for raising countertops are relatively inexpensive.

Provide drawers that both children and adults can reach.

Granite, slate or cold-temperature worktops are best as they suit pastry and bread making and are suitably tough.

Sociable Spaces: Sitting Pretty

Sociable Spaces: Sitting Pretty

Provide unexpected places to perch. Kids love chatting and watching adults at work.

Create dens for smaller children - some parts of the furniture should have openings at floor level. These also work well for pets!

Include a big sofa for cuddling, reading to kids and dressing them on school mornings when everything is a rush.

Add a long bench built into a cupboard base, which we call court cupboards. You can stand on the extended base to reach higher-up cupboards for additional storage access.

Safe Design: Keeping an Eye Out

Safe Design: Keeping an Eye Out

Non-shiny surfaces are best as they show the dirt least. Avoid high gloss lacquers.

Use materials, like natural stone, wood, painted surfaces, that age well and cope with dents. They can be repaired more easily.

Keep play zones away from key cooking zone but within eye sight.

Use soft and curved shaped counters - especially for central islands, or furniture sticking out into the centre of the room. Small children's eyes are particularily vulnerable to countertops that stick out more than cabinet edges.

Minimise locked cupboards. Keep the dangerous items in taller cupboards.

Gardens & More: Connecting to the Whole House

Gardens & More: Connecting to the Whole House

Design in French doors and easy access to the garden if you have one. Getting the kids outside helps keep everyone happy.

Open the circulation to the rest of the house. A kitchen is now a thoroughfare, not just a destination. It is the hub of the home and life revolves around it if you create easy access.

Create long views. Humans become calmer when they can see outside.

Add a fireplace or a wood-burning stove. Alternatively re-instate an old one. Open plan becomes a room again. Conversations flow and a more settled atmosphere is created.

A staircase is also a great perching place and connects the kitchen to the upstairs, adding extra floor space previously used as a corridor.

Storage: Flexible and Built-in

Storage: Flexible and Built-in

Cupboards for toys and other playthings makes a kitchen more-user friendly for kids. Kids can easily access deep drawers, for instance in the plinth (guard that goes on the bottom of the cabinetry nearest the floor), that are annoying to reach into for regular kitchen items.

Freestanding baskets or small mobile boxes on castors are great for toys like Legos because they can direct kids to play zones outside of the cooking area and make it quicker to clear up.

Design in low-level drawers in the base cabinets with lids that children can stand on to gain height.

Kitchen usuage: Getting the Right Equipment

Kitchen usuage: Getting the Right Equipment

A low-height, compact gas ring for camping can sit on almost any surface and turn it into a cooking area. Most hardware stores stock them for under £20. Failing that, purchase an electric frying pan.

Give kids access to tools, including knives when you feel they are old enough to handle them properly. Trust in kids' sense and skill.

Stock base cabinets with kitchen equipment that children can play with.

Use adjustable chairs, such as Tripp Trapp from Norway, for the table.

Atmosphere: Cosiness, Fun and Whimsy

Atmosphere: Cosiness, Fun and Whimsy

Allow space for colour and art and a big notice board. Kids love to see their own work around them and it makes the space inviting. Magnets on the fridge are also fun.

If you have compacted your working surfaces, you may have space for an old dresser or hutch that can display childrens photographs, art, pottery and other family paraphernalia.

If there is room, have two tables: one for homework, etc and one for eating. This will mean less stress when you prepare for a meal.

With young kids, a carpet is kind to their desire to be on the floor. Don't worry about the hygiene as you can always send it to the cleaners or wash it occasionally. Rag rugs used to be common near the sink in farmhouse kitchens to help preserve wooden floors and support tired feet.

Family Time: Coming Together

Family Time: Coming Together

Cook together. Welcome all help no matter age or ability. It may help to create two prep zones in your kitchen by using the table or bringing in a temporary one on trestles

Most children prefer to help with sweets or creating eatables that require making shapes rather than peeling vegetables. These are the perfect types of food to prepare at low-level work surfaces.

Being in the kitchen means it's time to be social. Designate technology-free times to spend quality time together.

Cooking With Kids: Mind

Mind: Savour The Moment

Take your time. Reframe "Hurry up and make dinner!" as "Cooking is fun!"

Designate the kitchen as a negativity-free zone.

Resist yelling and fussing over spilt milk. It's bound to happen as life is messy, but eggs clean up easily. (Pets can be especially useful here).

Sprinkle compliments generously during cooking.

Cooking With Kids: Body

Body: The Five Senses

Encourage development of the five senses: lay out ingredients together, listen to the crackle of good bread, sizzling bacon, taste vinaigrettes, gently sniff and press fruit to gauge ripeness.

Kids are often visual and kinesthetic learners. Use the chalk board to make shopping and prep lists. Cross things off as they are accomplished.

Leisurely time at the table is as important as the cooking.

Cooking With Kids: Ingredients

Ingredients: Select & Grow

Bring kids shopping with you. Let them choose one or two ingredients that intrigue them, then create or incorporate a dish in honor of "radishes" or "those special cherries."

If you have a garden, plant delicious items you can eat right off the vine, such as sugar snaps, golden cherry tomatoes and berries of all sorts.

Cooking With Kids: Safety & Sanitation

Health: Safety & Sanitation

Knife instruction is essential, and can begin quite young (each child is different and it's difficult to say exactly, but between the ages of 5 and 7 is usually appropriate).

Put away any perishable ingredients immediately after cooking activities.

Discuss the importance of sanitation.

Whether you chooses to wash up "as you go" or at the end of prep time, make certain to speak of it as a positive and necessary activity.

Cooking With Kids: Creativity

Creativity: Beyond Food

Make the first meal you make together a simple lesson. Allow the kids to name the dish.

Sometimes kids want to make wacky combinations, like sandwiches of mustard and chocolate. Let them.

Imagine meals from favorite childhood stories. Keep them simple, but make a plan to make them.

Plan a meal around a color, for instance using all red ingredients.

Create a cookbook of dishes you make together.

Cooking With Kids: Presentation

Presentation: A Work of Art

Talk about prettily presenting the completed dish.

Use beautiful platters, but also be open to serving dishes/creations in clean but quirky "containers" like a new sand bucket.

Take time to set the table with herbs and flowers. Simple is better.