How to Set Up Your Pantry So Your Kids Can Help Themselves


You’ve just arrived home from school, your kids have settled down at the table to start their homework or gone upstairs to play, and you have finally sat down for five minutes’ peace. Suddenly, someone wants you to make a snack. Break time over. If this scenario sounds familiar to you (and happens day after day after day), never fear. Here are some practically foolproof tips to help you organize your pantry so your children will be able to help themselves.

Get organized

Before you designate any kid space in your pantry and start divvying out snacks, it’s important to get your pantry organized. Your storage space will work best with open shelves. Arrange like items together so you know where everything is. Clear jars, storage bins and Tupperware containers help you (never mind the kids!) see where everything is and where everything should be. This will save you time whenever you need to find something, restock or direct the kids to the pantry. Don’t forget to sort through your cans, jars and baking supplies and get rid of any out-of-date items and donate anything you won’t likely use before it goes out of date.

Make it accessible

The next step in pantry organization is accessibility. There’s no point in designating a kids’ section of the pantry if it is out of reach or in a dangerous spot, so reserve the lower shelves for their cereals, snacks and baking supplies to give them easy access. Keep your own special treats, alcohol, sharps and glass well out of reach or locked away for safety. If you absolutely need to have children’s items higher up, make sure your pantry is stocked with a sturdy stepstool and that everyone knows how to use it safely. 

Label clearly

Once you’ve cleared your pantry of the old, it’s time to organize for the new. Labeling your food items will help you, yes, but it is absolutely essential if your end goal is for your children to help themselves when they need something. For younger but still independent kids, picture labels are a fantastic, if slightly time consuming, resource. Print — laminate if you so desire — and stick labels where you want things to go, and you just might find things where they ought to be. Chalkboard tags are another great and attractive way to label your dry goods for easy identification, plus they can be reused and swapped out easily.

Grab and go

If you have a few extra minutes after your weekly grocery shopping or after the kids have gone to bed, this step really will save you time over the course of the week. A wicker basket, plastic storage bag or other receptacle filled with portioned out snacks for kids to take whenever they get hungry makes a huge difference when it comes to kids' independence in the kitchen. Take your organization one step further after you’ve portioned out your snacks by labeling the bags with your kids’ names, to help save them from overeating and fighting over the last bag of Goldfish. Enlist the help of your older children for this job if time is short. Once they get the hang of it, it can be part of their weekly chores.

Encourage independence

Once you’ve organized and stocked your pantry with kid-friendly foods, knowledge is the key to success when it comes to self-sufficiency. Have your kids help during the pantry setup so they know where everything lives and how and where to put it away after use. Involve the whole family in the weekly shopping trip, putting away of groceries and during pantry restocking and cleaning times.

If you follow these steps and everyone is well informed, you and your kids will be an independent snack-grabbing family. 

Kaitlin Krull is a mom of two girls who writes for, an online service that connects homeowners with trusted professionals for home improvement projects.


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