Growing a kitchen alongside a family

As property prices rise, many families are unable to move house as often as they might like or even need to. More people are staying put for longer and investing in their existing house or flat. However, as couples start families, which then grow from babyhood through to early adulthood, so the family members will have different needs and expectations from their living space. Here's how to ensure your kitchen caters for every stage of life.

Babyhood

When a child is born, his or her needs are relatively simple. Therefore, the impact on the house will also be less significant in terms of physical paraphernalia. When preparing for a newborn, clear a space in the kitchen for the steriliser and make sure you can plug in the baby monitor so you can hear what's happening in the nursery while you are cooking or working in the kitchen. As the baby starts to become mobile, safety becomes paramount. Fit cooker guards and safety latches to all cupboard doors. Never leave any trailing electrical flexes around, and store all cleaning and other toxic products up high - or better still, in a securely locked cupboard.

Early childhood

As the baby grows into a toddler and then a child ready to start school, safety still remains key. Don't forget that the child will grow taller and more adventurous, so cleaning products, kettles, irons etc. must be guarded even more carefully. Young children usually enjoy eating snacks, so you could consider allocating a reachable shelf or space for the things they are allowed to come and eat at will. If you are keen to bake with children, a low worktop or sturdy stool to allow them to climb up to the main counters will be useful. Don't forget to choose a special spot to display their lovingly crafted drawings and paintings too - a popular place is the fridge, with magnets to secure the pieces of paper, but watch carefully to make sure the magnets cannot be swallowed.

Teenage years

As children grow, so does their desire for independence, and again, the kitchen should reflect that and give space for it to happen. If they enjoy cooking alongside, or even instead of you, make sure they have all the tools and ingredients they might need. Encourage their help with washing and drying up, cleaning etc. by keeping the tea-towels, cleaning products etc. easily to hand. Many teens relish family mealtimes (even if they don't actually admit it at the time) and the kitchen can really become the heart of the home during teenage years. Consider adding a table and chairs to eat together in the kitchen, if you have not already done so, or add some slim-line stools to sit on and chat at the counter if you don't have much room.

Early adulthood

This is the stage when children will be getting ready to 'fly the nest', so while you may find they spend less time at home, they will still like the security of having a warm, comforting place to return to. Keep the kitchen a cosy, calm room that they can enjoy spending time in. Be prepared, however, for its contents to lessen quite considerably when the time comes for them to move out and they want to take all your best utensils, pots and pans with them when they go.