Kids Can Do More than Raid the Refrigerator

LOUISVILLE, Ky.--29 June 2011-- Want to raise happier kids? Consider getting them into the kitchen to do some chores.

Kids Can Do More than Raid the Refrigerator

LOUISVILLE, Ky.--29 June 2011-- Want to raise happier kids? Consider getting them into the kitchen to do some chores.

GE Cafe(TM) refrigerator, model CFSP54KBSS. (Photo: GE)

That may seem counter-intuitive especially if you've ever had to nag a teen to unload groceries or help with dinner. But now you've got science on your side.

Citing a study conducted by UCLA researchers Eva H. Telzer and Andrew J. Fuligni, an article published by the Greater Good Science Center1 at the University of California, Berkeley, noted that 14- and 15-year-olds who helped out more around the house reported "greater feelings of happiness" than those who helped less.

And what better place to start than in the kitchen, often considered the center of the home?

"Kitchen activities also provide an opportunity to spend time with your child and teach them how to eat in a healthy manner," said Dr. Sarah Cummins-Sebree, a faculty member at the University of Cincinnati who specializes in child development.

Start early

So how do you instill the habit of helping out? The key is to start early and let kids develop skills over time. Cummins-Sebree says experts differ on what household tasks are appropriate at different ages. She encourages parents to be guided by the abilities of the individual child, adding, "Don't underestimate what your child can do."

"Even children younger than 2 years of age will try to start helping out," said Cummins-Sebree. "They want to get involved and do what the 'big people' are doing," she said. "You want to promote that sense of motivation and initiative."

Focusing on the fridge

One appliance that many children become familiar with at an early age is the refrigerator. Convenient storage features on GE Profile" and GE Café" refrigerators allow all family members small and tall to help out in the kitchen.

Toddlers, for example, may be able to help put their yogurt cups and juice boxes in the refrigerator after a shopping trip, said Cummins-Sebree, if you place grocery bags on the floor.

And if you have a bottom-freezer refrigerator, young children may also be able to help put away their favorite frozen vegetables, such as peas or carrots. The multi-level Slide 'n Store" system on select GE bottom-freezer refrigerators includes a plastic bin and wire baskets for flexible storage.

"Two to 3 years of age is also a good time to get [children] involved in choosing their own foods," said Cummins-Sebree. Create homemade flashcards by snapping photos of fruits and vegetables or clipping pictures from a magazine. Then let the little ones point to what they want. "It gives them some control over the foods they're going to eat -- which makes them more likely to eat them," she said.

At 4 or 5, children may be able to put slightly larger items in the refrigerator. You can also involve them in preparing a grocery list based on the meals and recipes they like.

As they get older perhaps ages 5 through 8 kids may be able to use the refrigerator more on their own and do simple food preparation, said Cummins-Sebree. Your son or daughter might be able to get out their own juice boxes, make a simple sandwich, or tear lettuce by hand. Again, what's appropriate depends on the individual child. "If they've shown they can use a butter knife, they might cut up bananas for smoothies, or butter toast."

Worried about messes? Slide-out, spillproof shelves on many GE refrigerators ensure that up to 12 ounces of spills stay put, and the shelves slide out to make cleanup easy.

And long before they're tall enough to reach the kitchen faucet, kids may enjoy helping themselves to clean, clear water and ice from an external refrigerator dispenser.

Look ma, no measuring cups!

Once children reach middle school, Cummins-Sebree said they may be able to handle making simple meals, such as spaghetti with salad and bread. "It's amazing what kids can do if you give them a chance and watch over them."

Measuring the correct amount of water for pasta is easy with the external water dispenser on select GE Profile" side-by-side refrigerators. With PreciseFill technology, kids can select the amount of water they need in cups or ounces.2

Don't clam up clean up

Around 12 to 14 years of age, when kids may begin to "clam up" a bit, spending time in the kitchen with you may help your teen open up more, said Cummins-Sebree. "If they're focused on preparing a salad or making cookies, they forget to put up that wall."

And, if you've let your kids build kitchen skills throughout childhood, she added, "There's no reason why a 16-year-old can't go to the grocery store on their own, with a list they've created, and then make a complete dinner with appetizer and dessert."

A teen who talks openly with you AND can cook a full meal? Now that's a happy thought.

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1 Grazer, Joy Suzanne, All in the Family. Greater Good, June 8, 2010, accessed on April 14, 2011,

2 Videos for PreciseFill are located at:

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