Quick DIY Play Kitchen (Kitchen in a Box!)

My son has been playing pretend lately, and it is adorable.

He’s had play food for awhile, and this past Christmas we got him a neat wooden toaster. I’ve been slowly starting to build up the stuff for a play kitchen.

I’ve seen so many neat ideas online for how to make one, especially the ones that repurpose things likes nightstands or entertainment centers. Originally I had wanted to make him one last fall, but didn’t find anything that would work (that, and I had a baby in the summer, so I had a lot on my plate).

I had told my husband about my plans, and then even suggested we just buy him a nice one for Christmas. Then he was all, “No, I’ll make him one from scratch!” Okay, great. So he took my son to Lowes, and they picked out some stuff to make it, and he started in on it, and then it was something that he said he’d finish in the spring. Fair enough. Winter isn’t the best time for sawing and sanding and whatnot.

Well, over the winter my son’s imagination really took off. He started to pretend to make us food and fetch us coffee. I wanted that darn play kitchen, but decided I could hold out a bit longer. And now it’s “spring” except that it’s still snowy and it’s the worst freaking spring ever. I am stir crazy. And, not to be mean, but I also know that there’s a good chance my husband will continue to put off this project for a good long time… and that I will spend this fall repurposing a piece of furniture so the kids get a nice wooden play kitchen for Christmas. (I’m not being a pessimist, it’s just that I asked him to hang a shelf in our son’s room last Mother’s Day, and last week I finally brought the shelf to Goodwill. Apparently 11 months was my threshold for hope.)

I got the itch just to make some sort of play kitchen to hold us over. I saw some cool ideas online where people used cardboard boxes. But we don’t have any that are suitable, and I also worried about it caving in the first time my son tries to climb on it, or a stray football hit it. It dawned on me while I was putting some cloth diapers in a storage bin in my daughter’s room… the bin would work perfectly for this project.

In my usual fashion, as soon as I got the idea in my head to make a stand-in play kitchen, I had to DO IT NOW. I also decided that I wanted to do it only with things that I already had on hand. This is just a stand-in play kitchen until I’m able to get the nice one that I have been yearning for, so I wanted to spend exactly $0 out of pocket for it.

Here’s the result!

playkitchen1

Here’s what I used:

  • a Sterilite storage bin (56 qt.)
  • a melamine bowl
  • a hand sanitizer pump
  • wooden blocks
  • felt & marker for the burners
  • 2 caps from baby food pouches
  • hot glue gun
  • washi tape

This was about the easiest thing ever to assemble. I used hot glue to put the pump top into a block that had a hole in it, to help stabilize it and give it a bit more lift so it was above the bowl better. I cut circles of felt and drew a swirl on them for the stove burners… I would have used black felt but I was out. I originally used jar lids, but my son ripped them off right away, so I figured I’d go with Plan B for those (I had debated the two options prior to making this). I left space toward the back of the surface, for “food prep” or to put the toaster or whatever.

You could use a million different household objects to put this together. Milk jug or bottle lids could be used for knobs. A pie tin would have made a great sink bowl. I had recently purged our kitchen, so I was a bit more limited on what to use. And I don’t make pies.

I used washi tape on the front just to give the impression of a cabinet and an oven.

Here’s a closer look at the sink… I used H & C wooden blocks for hot/cold knobs.

playkitchen2

Now, I just used hot glue to attach everything. You could certainly get fancy and attach them in a better way. I have been reminding my son to be careful and just pretend to turn the knobs. If anything pops off, a few seconds with the hot glue gun will fix it up. When we’re done, I can pop everything off of there and use the tote for something else.

The best part? You can store all your play food, dishes, utensils, etc. right inside.

playkitchen3

Also, it’s so portable. I love the idea of a play kitchen inside of your actual kitchen. Our kitchen won’t allow for that, unfortunately, so it will be nice to be able to bring this in there if he wants to pretend to cook while we’re cooking. Although, he’d much rather make a mess right there with us, of course. 😉

Total cost of the project: $0. Awesome.

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My New Obsession: Making Peg Dolls

I really like simple toys. My son plays really well with a minimal selection of toys that is well organized. I like for him to have more open-ended toys that can be used in lots of creative ways… his basic toys get the most use, and it’s fun to see how he uses them. We have very few plastic and/or electronic toys for this reason.

I had seen peg dolls around the internet and loved the idea of them. Simple, basic, wooden. No batteries. Waldorf-esque. I had almost purchased them on etsy several times, because making them seemed like a Very Large Undertaking. I’m pretty crafty, but I’m not usually very artistic.

Well, in my usual fashion, I needed to have a project to work on last weekend. I didn’t have anything I was working on, which is rare. I really need to have a creative outlet, and since having children that has been less about writing (hello, how can I think straight anymore?) and more about being crafty and having “projects.” I told my husband that I wanted to paint the dining room, and may as well do the entry way and stairwell and upstairs hallway while we’re at it! He said, no, please, let’s just have one weekend where we don’t have anything going on. Okay. So I did some Googling and then went to Michaels and made all of these over the course of an evening and the following morning.

Ta da:

pegdolls

Supplies needs:

  • wooden peg dolls
  • acrylic paint
  • varnish (or a clear protectant of some sort)
  • paint brushes of varying sizes (don’t forget some teeny tiny ones)
  • cup of water/towel for cleaning and drying brushes
  • fine-point Sharpie (optional)
  • a painter’s palette (or paper plate, or something else to put the paint on)

The wooden peg dolls come in various sizes and shapes. Our Michaels only carries two types; I used the larger ones (which came in packs of 2), although you can see the smaller ones in the photo below. They were called “man/game pieces,” if that helps. They were in the woodworking section of the store, hanging up on the wall near wooden letters and other woodsy craft items. I’ve seen other shapes online, some of which are more feminine-looking and look like they’re wearing dresses. We’ll see.

It’s really a pretty straightforward project. This post isn’t a “how-to” exactly… just be creative if you decide to do this. Think about what you’d like to make and the best way to approach what you want to make. Then paint. Let dry. Paint some more. Let dry. Varnish or protect in whatever way you choose; I used two coats of my varnish. I let them dry overnight before giving them to my son, but the varnish I used felt dry surprisingly quickly.

I used “craft smart” acrylic paint (69 cents each, whaaaat?!) and “Delta Ceramcoat” glossy varnish. Super inexpensive. Easy to use. Supposedly non-toxic.

paintandvarnish

Tips (some of which I learned the hard way):

  • Do some testing of your supplies. The varnish I used did NOT work with watercolor paints (although that doesn’t seem to always be the case… watercolors are pretty and let more of the wood grain show through, and I saw some other people have used them successfully). I had to do a lot of fixing and salvaging on poor Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
  • Permanent marker isn’t always permanent, and it may bleed into the wood or streak with the varnish. I had success with a finepoint Sharpie, but I made sure to pick up some black acrylic paint for future endeavors.
  • Let stuff dry. Don’t rush. This was hard for me. But it will make your life easier if you don’t have to fix bleeds and fingerprints and smears.
  • I found the paints to layer well, even if you used a light color over something darker. Two or three coats and it was good to go.
  • Don’t worry about perfection. I obsessed over the mistakes (I always want things perfect the first time, which is stupid) but my son doesn’t care.
  • Keep it simple. Even if you’re doing characters, don’t drive yourself crazy getting every little detail! Less can be more.
  • Have fun. Really. I found this surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable. I don’t paint often (at least not on a small scale like this, I usually paint things like walls). It was kind of therapeutic, even when I was obsessing over clumping, smearing watercolors. Remember why you’re doing it… to bring joy to your child. They don’t need perfection. You’re doing it for a good reason, so feel good about it.

I made my son his own super hero version of himself,  which he has been getting a huge kick out of:

superkid

(my son’s eyes are much less beady in person, thankfully)

The star is a sticker. There’s also his initial on the back, which is also a sticker. I used a LOT of the varnish to get these on well.

I decided to make some characters that my son likes, but I do plan on making more of the very simple type of dolls that can be used as just a family/people, and aren’t assigned a certain character. I made one like that so far. And I kept most of their facial expressions fairly ambiguous (dots for the eyes, a pleasant expression with a half-smile, but not a huge smiley face or anything).

I plan on making a lot more of these. I made Super Why, and my son is already asking where Wyatt’s friends are, so those are on my to-do list. And I started making the cast of The Fresh Beat Band already. I have a lot of ideas… a knight, Little Red Riding Hood & crew, some princesses, an owl, some other characters, and lots of basic people. These are really fun to make.

This is how they are currently being stored:

pegdollpouch

Eventually I will do something more. I want to get a little tin so we can easily make them portable (and bring a few with us in the diaper bag or whatever). The gears in my head are also turning as I am thinking about how I want to approach making a dollhouse for them. But, for now, they are in the zipper pouch. I wanted them to be easily contained (hello, choking hazard for my 8 month old). My son keeps getting the pouch, taking them out, asking questions about them, lining them up, asking where Super Why’s friends are, etc. so it’s really fun to see him getting some joy out of something I made for him. He is just starting to really play creatively, so I really look forward to watching him play pretend with them… and hopefully they last a long time so my daughter can use them in the future, too.

Disclaimer: Just use some common sense when making these. Know your children. If you think they might put them in there mouths or use them inappropriately, hold off on making them. Supervise them. Only use supplies you are comfortable using around your kids (I had considered trying to coat them in beeswax or something, but there it is). Just use your head, and have fun, and be careful… these are addicting! I bought all the wooden pieces our local Michaels has, so now I’m waiting (im)patiently for them to stock up again so I can make some more. 😉

DIY Stuffed Animal Storage – A Stuffed Animal Sling

I am not big on stuffed animals. But people tend to buy them for kids (especially babies). And I’ll admit to buying a few. And some of the ones that we have are sentimental items. I limit them to a reasonable amount, as we are doing our best to not have excessive amounts of toys.

Stuffed animals can easily take over. Last month I decided we needed something to wrangle the kids’ stuffed animals, but I wasn’t too impressed with the options out there. Even Pinterest failed me (sad face).

I wanted something like a stuffed animal net (like we had as kids) but I wanted it to look nicer. I was putting my daughter in her ring sling a few weeks ago when the idea hit me. A “sling” would be perfect!

I reached into my own closet for the perfect material: scarves. No, not the winter ones (although I imagine some of those might work as well). I mean the pretty ones that you use to spruce up an outfit. I have a modest collection of them. I like to wear them occasionally to brighten up my rather boring wardrobe (or to hide my now sagging breasts).

The solution is a simple one. Knot each end around a plastic shower curtain ring (found for around $1/pack), and latch those onto hooks mounted onto the wall (I used those 3M/Command types). When putting it together, you want it to create a bit of a pocket for the stuffed animals… much like a baby in a sling. 🙂

My son’s animals:

sling1

My daughter’s animals:

sling2

What’s nice about this solution is that scarves are easy to find, often on clearance (so a few bucks at Target), and you can match them to the decor or color scheme in your child’s room. Or (as in my case) you might already have some in your closet. I found the gauzier, stretchier ones work best as they have a bit more “give” and make an easier pocket for them to go inside of.

An added benefit (in my opinion) is that only a limited number of stuffed animals will fit. If you’re like me and aren’t a huge fan of the little buggers, and/or are trying to be more minimal, this is a much better solution than the nets or other ideas I have seen that allow for a LOT of stuffed animals.

Disclaimer: Be careful about where you put these. These could present a choking or strangulation hazard, so make sure they are out of reach of small children or kids who may handle them in an unsafe way. This is just my own personal idea that is working for our family, so use your best judgment about the material you use and how you go about this! I put the one in our youngest child’s room up high and out of reach just to be safe.