DIY: Toddler Play Kitchen

January 31, 2013

by Margaret Cabaniss

Kids' Play Kitchen

While we’re on the subject of homemade kids’ toys, I had to share The Cutest Play Kitchen in the History of Play Kitchens that my sister’s husband put together as a Christmas gift for their 15-month-old son, Stephen. Seriously, just look at it. Is that not the sweetest thing? (The kitchen, I mean. I already know Stephen is adorable.)

I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love a good play kitchen, but it’s just as rare to find one that isn’t plastic, garish, or outrageously expensive — sometimes all three at once. I’d seen posts where people had built their own play kitchens from old cabinets and such (like this one at Young House Love), but this model ended up being even simpler: Amy found a post at Apartment Therapy on how to build a play kitchen out of Ikea components; Joe cut, painted, and assembled it; and with a few extra accessories, Stephen now has the cutest little Scandinavian minimalist kitchen on the block.

Kids' Play Kitchen

The plan itself is endlessly adaptable, and Joe and Amy made a few tweaks of their own. They started with this Rast nightstand for the base, which they already happened to have on hand (but at just $15, it would be easy enough to pick one up), then Joe used a jig saw to cut a round hole in the top for the sink. Instead of sticking with the lower shelves in the original plan, he put a vertical divider in the middle of the shelf to make the right side an oven, and the left a cabinet/mini-fridge.

Kids' Play Kitchen

On the oven side, Joe attached four pieces of wood to the interior walls to serve as the oven rack holders; the rack itself is just a ¼-inch piece of hardwood plywood, cut to rest on top of the braces. (Hardwood plywood has a smoother finish than regular plywood and is slightly more expensive. In this case, Joe just happened to have some on hand that was left over from a previous project.)

Next, he cut a ½-inch piece of plywood to the width of the shelf (and roughly double the height) to serve as the back to the entire unit. One final piece of ½-inch hardwood plywood was cut to fit the front of the shelf for the doors, then cut again down the middle. The fridge door was attached with hinges on the side, while the oven door was hinged at the bottom.

Kids' Play Kitchen

After making sure all the pieces fit, Joe painted the base, doors, and backboard white; the oven interior (including a corresponding square on the backboard and the inside of the door) gray; and the oven rack black. Once everything dried, he re-hung the doors, putting in magnetic latches to hold them shut, and screwed the base onto the back.

With the major components assembled, all that was left to do was add a few pieces of hardware (mostly from Ikea) to finish it off: a metal dog bowl for the sink, cabinet handles for the oven and fridge door, a double towel bar and S hooks for the pot rack, some black coasters for burners, and a few leftover cabinet knobs for the range controls. Add in some pots, pans, utensils, and play food (also from Ikea), plus some wooden condiment bottles and sliceable food from Melissa and Doug, and Stephen’s kitchen is now fully stocked.

Kids' Play Kitchen

Stephen loves it, of course; even his older brothers like to get in on the action. Amy and Joe have talked about adding other details — a sink faucet, maybe, or a square of chalkboard paint on the back to scribble menus — but the simple lines are kind of nice, too: As it is, it’s small and unobtrusive enough that it can live happily in Amy and Joe’s living room without taking over the space, visually or otherwise. And the fact that they already had most of the necessary materials on hand (heck, even if they hadn’t) made it far less expensive than even the most simple play models out there. Wins all around.

Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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1 Alissa Lively January 31, 2013 at 10:17 am

This is fantastic! Is Joe up for being contracted out? 😉


2 Lauren January 31, 2013 at 12:17 pm

This is awesome! I love everything about it.


3 Zoe Saint-Paul January 31, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Wow, that is one awesome play kitchen! Joe really needs to go into business. Impressive. And thanks for sharing the project since play kitchens *are* so expensive — or plastic. We were fortunate to have a used one donated to us for the girls and it’s made from wood so it’s decent.


Margaret Cabaniss 4 Margaret Cabaniss January 31, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Thanks, guys! I’ll be sure to pass on all your compliments to Joe.


5 Jen January 31, 2013 at 3:33 pm

This is the best little kitchen EVER!


6 SarahD January 31, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Our littlest guy got a play kitchen for Christmas too! Though we “sourced” ours from Craigslist and didn’t care that it was plastic. Also we opted not to get any play food, so currently he stews Matchbox cars. I have never had a Christmas gift go over so well or be so thoroughly and consistently enjoyed. Play kitchens are da bomb!


7 Gran February 1, 2013 at 9:36 am

There has not been a grandchild who has come for a visit (who can walk) that hasn’t spent hours with our little kitchen from Craig’s list. It’s such fun to watch them (and to “eat” what they cook up.)


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