*LOOOONG post, so get ready!*
Through some inspiration online (such as these, this or this) I decided to try to make my own play kitchen from an old piece of furniture. I thought it looked like fun, and not too difficult – depending on how advanced you wanted to make it! I wanted to use as much second hand items as possible, and to make it non-toxic, non-plastic and sturdy for my kid who is 1,5 years old. Some people asked me how I did it, so I thought I could share the process. I wrote this in English so more friends could read it!
Here I am with the stuff I found at second hand Erikshjälpen (like Goodwill). It was like $18 (160sek) total! The shelf was 5 bucks and the rest was small kitchen things, a frame, some wooden trinkets, bowls and an embroidery that I liked. The little bag of screws on top is from a hardware store. I’ll show you what it’s for in a sec!
The shelf is made out of untreated wood. I chose it because I didn’t want to have to treat the wood or grind off the paint to be able to paint it. I wanted it to be as simple as possible! If you can’t find a good untreated wood shelf there are usually cheap ones at most larger supermarkets, or at IKEA. Most of the other things was from the kitchen area. Stainless steel cups, bowls, plates, old tea boxes, a wooden spice rack (?) that I found for a buck and then the handmade embroidery that was like 2 bucks from the textile area. The plate on the lower right (above) is in stainless steel and from the 1950′s or 1960′s, judging from the style (I think). We ended up using as a regular plate for the kid. Great toxin free and stable for toddler hands!
I started off drawing a line in the middle of the top shelf, to partition the ”sink” from the ”stove”. I used a large book that I put against the side, to make sure the line was straight. Then I took one of the bowls to make a round circle for the larger burners. Then, an upside down for the smaller burner circles. I just drew around with pencil.
This is the all natural toxin free paint that I was planning to use! It’s made from dirt and stuff… totally safe for children. I got it from Natural Earth Paint, a company run by a friendly woman who also sells great non-toxic face paints!
You mix the paint powder with water. I used wayyy to much water so it took some time to get the right mix. I recommend using a teeny tiny bit of water to start off with, and then adding more if needed.
Doing this, I was at my parents’ house and they didn’t have any small brushes at home. I found this one in their kitchen cabinet. I think it’s supposed to be used for cooking…. Oh well, it worked, but might not be a great choice for the perfectionist! I started with some brown paint around the burner circles.
Yup, used too much water. I took a piece of kitchen towel to dry up some water. And I got a nice pattern too boot! Darker brown shade for the burners. I wasn’t quite satisfied with it though…
I used the same color to paint the ”sink” area. My plan is to some day install some kind of faucet here, and make a hole in the shelf so I can put a ”sink” bowl there (like in the inspirational picture in the beginning). I think I’ll buy a coat hanger, like these guys did:
But that’s for another day… For now its just a general grey area.
I wanted to do some linings and details but like I said, no brush… There’s an old weird Swedish expression that goes: ”You take what you have, said Cajsa Warg.” She was a cook. Oh well, I had a cotton swab at home. So I used that.
I made some lines around the burners. Also, a line separating the sink area so it didn’t look all blurry and messy.
My partner/lover/boyfriend/baby daddy was very skeptical of my project at first. This is him leaving his Playstation checking out what I had been doing he was mightily impressed! I even got a ”I was wrong…” out of him. That’s when you know you got something down!
My dad saw me working and went out to the garage. There, he found an old shelf piece that was almost the same size as the ”kitchen”. We wiped off the dust and decided to use it as is. We accepted that it was a bit too wide, rather than having to do lots of extra work. Life is easier if everything doesn’t have to be perfect, in my opinion… But maybe I’m just sloppy! My dad got a screw driver and fastened the back piece with some screws.
We decided to put it quite high up so that we could add things above the stove. Another option would have been to put it in the bottom part, but we left that open for now. Maybe some other day we’ll add a piece of wood there! I think you can find pretty affordable untreated wood shelves a lot of places. If nothing else, they have them at IKEA!
We also decided to fasten the spice rack-thingy to one of the walls. My experience is that my kid loves it when there are plenty of small details to play with. So this is just another thing that could be fun to add! We used a screw driver for that as well.
I found some old shelf handles in my parent’s storage. You could also get them at IKEA. They also have a great wooden one that might be even better, but we don’t live close to any stores so I just used this for now. I added one here….
….and another one bottom left. No specific purpose, but I’m sure the little one will think of something at some point! We hope that this will be a fun thing to play with for several years, and will probably add on details as we go.
This (above) is what the handles look like in my parent’s kitchen. And below, the kitchen utensil hanger rack that I wanted to imitate!
Ooops! We got a problem. You can’t see it too well in this pic but we realised that the screw fastening the embroidery had gone through the wood. That means: a sharp screw sticking out = not great for toddlers. We decided to unscrew it slightly to make sure it didn’t stick out.
I found an old embroidered table cloth in our storage that was a good fit for the width of the shelf. I think it used to belong to my great grandma. I love how it now belongs to my daughter! So much history here.
At first I was hesitant to ”waste” such a beautiful fabric on a toy, but then I thought that it was a better idea to actually use it, than it just laying around collecting dust. If you don’t have stuff like this laying around you can find tons of beautiful table cloths at Goodwill for just a few dollars, or just use a cheap kitchen towel, or some fabric if you wanna sew.
I was hoping to not have to pull out the sewing machine, so I tried just folding the fabric it over the string. It’s definitively possible to do this without sewing, in case you don’t have access to a sewing machine. But, I highly suggest sewing, even if it just means a few stiches by hand. You’ll see why in a sec…
After about 2 hours of diy:ing my kid woke up. Her dad brought her over to the stove project. She was excited!!
We added some kitchen utensils to show her what we were aiming at…
I kid you not: it took her 30 seconds before she was going at some serious cooking. I was surprised and impressed: I barely ever cook (we have spend the last 6 months in New York and let me tell you: delivery is an amazing invention…) but I guess she has picked up a lot more than we think.
Also, when we do cook at home we always show her what’s going on and let her help out as much as possible (even if it means getting to stir the fried eggs once with a spatula.) We also find that getting her involved makes her eat better, which is a necessity since she is a super picky eater.
She was stirring away with the 20 cent wooden butter knife in the cute little pan I got at the second hand store. If you can’t find them used, they have an ok priced set of cooking stuff at IKEA.
She instantly requested some water in the tea box. She loves playing with water. But, the kitchen didn’t! I guess the paint wasn’t water resistant, and since I hadn’t put anything on to cover it (here is a tutorial on how you can make the paint water proof with beewax and olive oil) this happened. One day I’ll probably fix it so that she can play with water as well. We usually want to encourage her to experiment as much as we can. Even if it means a few wet towels… But for now, the kitchen will have to stay dry because well… I’m lazy.
It has now been 4 days since I built the kitchen and she has spent like 90% of her awake time that we spent in the house in front of this little kitchen set. *Happy mom*
I sewed a straight seam through the cloth, and then put the string through it with the help of a safety needle. We then managed to distract her for a few minutes so that I could style the kitchen and add stuff. We bought a Melissa & Doug wooden play food set for her in the US, but as our bags were overflowing we gave away most of it (regret it now like crazy…) but at least we kept the cheese! She loves the ”sheeestsh”…
The felt vegetables that my parents had bought for her at IKEA (feels like I am doing an IKEA ad… I’m not getting paid by them for endorsement…unfortunately) made a great soup. Here are some good ideas if you want to make your own toy food! I’ll probably try some of them soon.
I can’t believe how easy this was! A fully equipped kitchen for under $30, all included! And, it only took an afternoon, but that was probably thanks to my dad helping out with the screw driver (it would have taken me longer to figure out how to use it). We’ll probably add on things, like a shelf above the embroidery and some more trinkets and small shelves and boxes. It will be an ongoing project that can develop with my daughter. When it gets too low for her we’ll just add some wooden pieces under it to get it off the floor, or even wheels to make it movable. As we live in a tiny apartment we’ll probably try to make it taller, rather than wider. Please ask me if you have any questions about the process and I’ll try to answer! IDA
PS: If you like this post, you might like my children’s book Carried On Your Back / Rida ryggen about the day in the life of a babyworn child! You can buy the English version (soft cover) in most online bookstores, such as here or here (and here is the Kindle e-book version!) and the Swedish version (hardback) straight from me, here!And, here’s more info about Nära förlag, the small AP printing press that I run! FOR MORE BLOG POSTS TAGGED ”BARN” / CHILDREN, CLICK HERE!