We’ve gone through a few play kitchens over the past few years. Our first play kitchen was a plastic Little Tikes Family kitchen garage sale find that served it’s purpose, was big and bulky and was, well, plastic.
Then I found a very cute, very cheaply made retro looking kitchen on clearance. In this picture, it looks quite nice.
But, not barely a year old, the knobs were falling off, the faucet handles constantly loosened up too much, one of the door handles fell off and a few of the burner pieces were loosening up and threatening to fall off.
Yes, you get what you pay for, I do know that. But the funny thing on that one was the original price tag was $100. I’m so glad I paid a fraction of that price otherwise I really would have been upset. I thought about putting more money into it and replacing the broken things, but then I thought, that’s more money I’m putting into something that realistically has a life span of only 2 more years. And my 6 year old was having to kneel down to use it when she felt like playing with it.
And, no matter how durable the plastic toy kitchens are, I’m not going back. I am trying to go a more natural route with some of our playthings (legos, a few playmobil toys and marble runs aside). After all the recalls on lead painted toys, I made an effort to make toys last Christmas and get rid of bags and bags of plastic toys. It was hard, believe me, because I love toys, even if they are plastic. But, I wanted to do it. Better to be safe than sorry. And we had way too many anyhow. So it was helpful to scale back.
I got rid of the cheap plastic food, and replaced them with a small set of wooden cutting food and some fabric foods I have made like this:
But I learned something when I purged the plastic. I learned about why I should move towards good quality wood and handmade toys. They just feel better to the touch and they are good for the environment too. Yes, I know I just recently bought a plastic marble run and it goes against these thoughts, but I don’t know of many wooden versions with gears, which was one of the main reasons I bought a plastic one.
So, all this talk about wooden vs. plastic playthings brings me back to my original point. The improvised wooden play kitchen.
I have been scouting around for quite a while for something I could re-purpose into a play kitchen. I had a really hard time justifying another purchase of an expensive but lovely wooden kitchen like these at Nova Natural Toys. While beautiful, I just couldn’t justify the expense for something that may have only about 2 years worth of play value left.
So instead, I decided to look for substitutes. Something I could change back from a kitchen back into functional furniture. So at a local consignment shop I found a hand painted wood beside table that will be converted into a refrigerator with a door and a shelf, and a hand painted cabinet that will be converted into a stove/oven combo with the addition of a shelf. The cooktop was Alex Toys and purchased at a discount store that I had picked up with the intention of using it on top of something like this cabinet. And the bonus is that my 6 year old no longer has to kneel to use it as it’s taller.
The interior (hubby promised to make me some shelves for both).
And the top (I love the fact that we have a drawer for the utensils). I don’t like the fact that we still have plastic cookware, but maybe for one of their birthdays. I’m thinking of this set.
You don’t necessarily even have to find a cooktop like that one. You could further improvise by painting burners on or recycling old cd’s. A few drawer pulls can be used as knobs. Kind of like this play kitchen at Family Fun.com