Saturday, September 1, 2012

DIY play kitchen

DIY play kitchen
  Today I’m going to share a tutorial on how to make this play kitchen, built on the idea of a kitchen to spark your little chef’s imagination.  Created mostly from scraps in the backyard, this play kitchen can be built for next to nothing and within an afternoon.

  To build the kitchen, you will need:
-           - a bowl, or some sort of receptacle, to use as a sink (flowerpot?  half a coconut?  anything will do)
-           - a few branches, including one with a good fork in it to use as a faucet.
-           - a jar of miscellaneous screws
-          -  a large piece of scrap wood to use as the base for your kitchen
-          -  2 pine cones
-           - wood glue
-           - a saw or shears to cut the branches with
-           - clamps or a pair of vise grips
-           - drill with a small bit, or a Dremel tool
not your child's favourite cookie
-           - a pencil
-          - tin cans from the recycling
-           - painter’s tape or duct tape

    The first thing we’ll do is to take the thickest branch and cut four thin slices from it, or ‘cookies’, that we will use to make the dials for the burners on the stove. 

a great branch for a faucet
  Next, take the forked branch that will become the faucet, trimming it so that it will fit behind and over the bowl, and ensuring that the bottom is as flat as you can manage. 

  Finally, using your shears or saw, cut four different pairs of thinner twigs from one of the branches to use as the stove’s burners.  So that each burner is a flat, even surface for your pint-sized chef to put a pot onto, take one twig from each pairing and snip it in half again.  This way, you can make an ‘X’ for your burner (as seen in the photo). 
X shaped burner

  Now that you have created all of the pieces you need to build the kitchen (good job, you), it’s time to start arranging your sink, with its faucet and pine cones for hot and cold knobs, the burners and their dials on your wooden base.   I highly recommend setting up the stove so that it matches the one that your chef has at home, since kitchen play is way of mimicking the everyday rituals of home.

  Once you are happy with the arrangement of your kitchen, lightly trace around the base of your faucet branch, as well as the dials. 

  Remove everything from your base, and with your drill (or Dremel tool) make a small hole in the center of the trace you made of the faucet base, going all the way through the base to the other side.  Turning your faucet upside down, and holding it in place with your clamps or vise grips, drill a hole about an inch deep into the bottom center. 

  Select a screw that is both thick enough to go through the base and into the bottom of the faucet, yet short enough that it will go only about an inch into said faucet.  Now flip the board acting as the base to your kitchen upside down, and screw in the screw all the way.   

  Flip it right side up again, and dab some wood glue onto the bottom of the faucet before positioning it over the emerging screw and twisting it on by hand, until quite tight.  Twist the faucet whichever you need to so that the ‘spout’ will be centered over the sink.

  Now take the dials that you sliced, holding them securely in a pair of vise grips or clamps (NOT your hand – they are tricky little devils), and drill a hole through the center of the dial.

  Once all four of your dials are drilled, return to the base of your kitchen where you traced the outline of the dials.  

  Using a nail that is thinner than the hole you drilled in the dials and has a head larger than it, loosely hammer the dials into the board.  Don't hammer it tight - leaving the nail just above the dial will allow your little chef to spin the dial about (it's a tiny thing we take for granted and children are never allowed to do). 

  All of our drilling work is done now, so let’s get back to our sink.  Coat the base of the two pine cones that will be the hot and cold knobs in wood glue and position them next to the faucet.

  Put a coat of glue on the bottom of the bowl or whatever receptacle you are using for the sink, and press into place.  It's true, your half-pint chef has one of those expensive and ever-so-fashionable above-the-counter sinks I keep seeing at the high end hardware stores.  Please try and contain your jealousy over the little chef’s kitchen.   It simply isn’t becoming. 

  For our final step, we are going to take all of those little twigs we cut for our burners, and glue them into place (remember the X’s in the photo above). 

  You just made a kitchen.  In an afternoon.  Take that, contractors.
kitchen in an afternoon!!!!

  But wait.  Don’t make supper just yet.  Give that glue a good 24 hours to dry before the fun begins.  You can use this time to make some pots and pans. 

  For my pots, I used a set that I got as a wedding gift from the recycling bin.  I cleaned up a few tin cans and –this is important- placed a few layers of painter’s tape (I couldn’t find the duct tape – see ‘the grease incident’ for more details) around the top where the tin is very sharp and dangerous.  Do not let a child play with tin cans without this important barrier! 

  Ta-daaa!  Aren't you proud of yourself?  I'm proud of you, and just wait till the kids/grandkids/local chef school get a hold of it!  They can take it to their treehouse, into a tent, on the porch, under a bush, anywhere they feel like cooking up something good.

  Wow.  I wish my kitchen was that portable (daydreams of cooking dinner in a hammock and washing dishes from a swing)... 

  I'm linking this project up with Eco-kids Tuesdays and We Made That - click on the link to see more great eco-fun!

                                      Did this project help you work out your own play kitchen? 
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