Encourage self-serve breakfast independence with “the Breakfast Drawer”

Amazon: Amana 25-Cubic-Feet Side-by-Side Refrigerator, ASD2522WRB, BlackWhile this hack is useful for everyone, "Mo's Mom's" idea gave her daughter a concrete way to help her family during a very scary time.

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and was to be hospitalized for a month followed by six months of chemotherapy, I knew I needed to increase my four (now five) year-old daughter's independence so she could get her own breakfast in the morning. I needed the time to take care of other household duties and get myself ready for work.

My refrigerator has drawers at kid-height so I designated one of them as my daughter's Breakfast Drawer.

On Sunday, I fill the drawer with five individually-packed servings of each:

  1. Yakult probiotic drinks. They come in little bottles she can open herself.
  2. Grains such as cereal, bread, a muffin, Sunday-made pancakes, or a bread roll.
  3. Proteins such as cheese, yogurt, hard-boiled egg, or sliced turkey or ham.
  4. Fruit such as grapes, strawberries, blueberries, dried or canned fruit.

In the morning, I set out a plate and a glass of water before my daughter wakes up. She then chooses one item from each category, gets anything else she needs like a spoon or salt and takes it to the table. She usually eats her cereal dry so I don't often have to deal with the milk, and she likes her breads cold and untoasted without butter or jam, so that makes things easier, but for the pancakes, I sometimes put a little pitcher of maple syrup in the drawer and remind her not to drink from it. :)

On Saturday and Sunday, we usually eat all together.

The Breakfast Drawer has been a time saver for me and my daughter is proud of her independence.

Pride and self-confidence come from real accomplishments. I'm sure your daughter knows she's making a difference for both you and her dad. I speak for everyone here when I wish your family good health and strength.

Amazon: Interdesign Fridge Binz Deep Bin, 8 x 4, ClearA practical note: if your fridge doesn't have built-in bins at the proper height, you can do the same thing with a large, plastic container or open bin placed on the bottom shelf.

Related: Snack hack: Create single servings to teach portion control and increase independence

And: How do you gradually give your older child independence?


  1. says

    As part of my son’s 7th birthday, we introduced him to making his own cereal. My husband bought two plastic containers, one with a handle and the other easy-to-grip. We put a small amount – maybe three days worth of milk in one and cereal in the other. He was so proud when we showed him how he could now make cereal for himself and his sister. He actually shoos us out of the kitchen in the morning because he wants to be in there by himself.

  2. Kathy says

    We also have a “kids shelf” in the pantry. Snack items – granola bars, goldfish, cereals, mini-muffins, and other items they can get on their own. Of course, sometimes we have to lock the door or they’d be eating all day!

  3. says

    My kids were really serious cereal-only-eaters – so I dedicated a lower cabinet (that even my youngest could open easily) and stocked it with plastic cereal bowls and cups. I put milk in a small 2-cup container so that pouring milk would be easier than from a big gallon jug. I think it helped independence and I got a few more minutes of sleep!