June 2010: Kids


Kids on kitchen duty

Problem: Getting the kids to help themselves

Kate Bennis and Hal Movius designed their kitchen so that Anya, 4, and Luke, 6, can set their own table.

Transferring from more cramped quarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a few years ago, Kate Bennis and her husband, Hal Movius, were thrilled to find an old farmhouse in downtown Charlottesville with great bones and a backyard unusually large and level for its location near Martha Jefferson Hospital. The place had been wrecked and converted into a duplex, but the couple immediately saw its potential as a great family compound. They just needed to knock down and realign a few walls for more modern mobility.  

Centering the renovation around a larger kitchen, they designed adjoining spaces for dining, play and office work to be openly visible and easily accessible to their two preschoolers, Luke (6) and Anya (4), and created a free-flowing floor plan that enables mom and dad to get their own professional and domestic chores done while keeping eyes and ears near the little ones.

“The most useful thing we did was to use two Ikea units back to back to make a kitchen island,” says Bennis. “The end facing the play area has many small drawers, and we put all the kids’ plates, utensils, glasses, etc. there so they can set their own table and help themselves. They also each have a ‘Treasure Drawer’ for all the wonderful Valentine’s Day cards, pebbles, glitter, plumes and ephemera that [they] collect.”

Bennis says the Montessori teaching philosophies of her children’s preschool inspired her organizational design choices: “Certainly, Montessori has influenced all of our toy storage ideas. The kids can see, find and lift everything themselves. I don’t really have to do anything!”  

Bennis jokes that designing systems for kid self-reliance might make her

a lazy mom, but we think it makes her one of the smartest and most industrious moms we know.


Snack traps

Three tofu nuggets; five peeled apple slices; a tablespoon of peas—tonight’s leftover dinner could be your preschooler’s next lunch if you can spot the small stashes in the back of the fridge. One- and two-cup, lidded glass bowls make great see-through storage and are safe to reheat (no toxic plastics!). Blue Ridge Eco Shop; $4.50-5.25.—K.L.