Pretend and Learn Kitchen
November 24, 2007
Kitchen Equipment and Furnishings
You will need to have some way of storing all of the kitchen items and kids need a workspace, so I recommend buying cabinets and shelves. The cabinets turn into ovens and refrigerators. Shelves turn into storage areas. Fish tank stands are the perfect counter height for kids and have cabinets and shelves but can be a bit expensive.
If you want something even less expensive, try cardboard boxes (you can get large sturdy boxes from moving supply companies). Just glue on some handles (which you can also make out of cardboard) and decorate it as necessary. Set up some large boxes to make a counter. Cut a hole in one and insert a plastic wash basin (found in the cleaning section of most stores) into the hole for an instant sink (you can even make a faucet with toilet paper tubes, knobs, and aluminum foil).
You'll need a kid sized table as a work and dining area (especially if play dough will be involved). For chairs I recommend using child-sized folding chairs. The store easily and can be taken outside or even on camping trips. If they get dirty, you can just hose them off.
- Plastic or Paper Cups, Plates, Bowls, and Flatware
Restaurants hand out plastic items like crazy, so put them to good use. Paper items are best when unused (since liquids make the paper soft and sticky substances don't wash off). Flatware can also be metal (usually from a thrift store or your old stuff), but keep metal knives and forks out of the hands of small children when unsupervised.
Old Pots, Pans, and Utensils Look through your cabinets and you'll probably find some duplicate utensils or old items you don't use anymore. Declutter your kitchen and stock your kids' kitchen at the same time. Just make sure you inspect all items to ensure that they aren't dangerous (no sharp points, small pieces that fall off, etc.). Measuring spoons and cups, whisks, spatulas, cookie cutters, and potato mashers are favorites. Kids can use utensils when playing with play dough.
Dishtowels, Washcloths, and Pot Holders
You probably have some of these around the house that you don't use anymore. You can also sew, knit, or crochet some. If you need to buy some, hit the thrift stores.
Cutting Boards You can buy an inexpensive cutting board from a thrift store, use one of your old cutting boards, or make one out of a piece of solid wood (not plywood or pressboard).
Cookbooks You can give your kids your old cookbooks, buy one at the thrift store, or print out recipes from the Internet and make your own book.
Stock the Pantry
You don't need to buy expensive toy food. Just use...
Food Containers Save your food containers. Everything from macaroni boxes and milk containers to soup cans (with the lids cut off with a safety can opener of course) and spice jars can be cleaned up and placed into your child's kitchen. Fruit containers (such as strawberry baskets) are great for craft projects too.
Food Labels If you don't have a container that you are willing to give your kids (such as a glass jar that could break), just put the label on a safe container or make your own.
Plastic Eggs Many people have plastic eggs around the house after spring celebrations like Easter but don't know what to do with them. You can put plastic eggs in an old egg carton and put them in your kids' kitchen (you might want to spray down the carton with a disinfectant first to avoid salmonella contamination).
Play Dough Food Play dough can be squeezed through a potato ricer to make play spaghetti. It can be molded into the shape of food. It can be cut into tiny pieces for pretend eating. Making play dough food is a fun project for kids.
Fabric Food You can create your own food out of fabric. You can get your clothes from old clothes or the scrap bin at the craft store. Green fabric can be cut into the shape of lettuce. Red fabric becomes tomatoes. Yellow fabric becomes cheese. Brown fabric sewn into a quilt or pillow becomes bread. You now have a fabric toy sandwich. You can also draw on the fabric with permanent markers or paint on them with fabric paint for added detail. Making fabric food is a fun project for kids.
Dry Noodles and Beans Since they aren't perishables and can also be used for craft projects, dry noodles and beans are an excellent way to bring real food into the play area. (You may want to skip this if you have pests like roaches or mice.)
Turn Your Kitchen into a Restaurant
Just add a notepad and crayon for taking orders and a serving tray for bringing food from the kitchen to the dining area.
Turn Your Kitchen into a Grocery Store
The kitchen counter can become a checkout lane and the kitchen cabinets and shelves can become the grocery store cabinets and shelves.
Just add a few extra items...
Shopping Basket (handheld or a push cart)
Grocery Bags (we like the canvas ones)
Toy Cash Register
- Play Money and Credit/Debit Cards
(many credit card companies send out plastic cards in the mail to get people to open their envelopes; just give them to the kids or make your own out of plain index cards)