Make Your Own Toy Kitchen

It’s your kid—you should get to decide what kinds of choking and lead poisoning hazards make up its playthings. One woman clearly didn’t need any Fisher-Price plastic toy kitchen ruining her white-on-white aesthetic, so she made her own entirely out of found corrugated cardboard, contact paper, and a few household items. And if you don’t feel you have the skills to replicate it by looking at the photographs, then she’ll sell you a copy of the plans for $7.

con_plasticrivet.jpg Cardboard is vastly underrated as a construction material for kids. It’s easy to work with, sturdy, easy to dispose of, and—if you’re lucky and willing to look for it—free. If you want to make the assembly part even easier, consider purchasing some reusable plastic rivets from Mr. McGroovy. He even sells “party packs” that include plans for large-scale constructions (e.g., a castle), enough rivets for the whole job, and—for that troubled child in your family—a box cutter.

“Toy Kitchen is Finished!” [via MAKE]
(Photo: fortytworoads)


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  1. Serenefengshui says:

    That is just so cute! Kudos to her for not only making her own toys but selling the plans. Really, that’s what parents need to do these days, make our own toys and re-purpose household items as toys. Back in the day, homes weren’t full of six gazillion bits of plastic carpola. Remember the Little House books? How Laura was thrilled to have her one doll, her one tin cup, her pencil. Lets return to that!

  2. humphrmi says:

    @serenefengshui: That’s a great sentiment. Before we do that though, might I remind you that Laura didn’t have a computer. Or a connection to the Internet. Or :)

  3. ChrisC1234 says:

    And the best part… NO LEAD!

  4. darkclawsofchaos says:

    I think wood would had been better material, although then again, wood prices are so darn high these days, and its hard to find well sanded wood, the real nice ones that are 3/4in x 1 ft x 7ft planks

  5. dotorg greg says:

    uh, the design is actually copied from a wood kitchen made by a small toy company in Switzerland called Momoll. It’s made from birch plywood and retails for like $450.

    The cardboard lady namechecked the original in the caption of one flickr photo, but there’s also quite a bit of “it’s all my design!” verbiage on her site, too, which is a bit misleading.

  6. nardo218 says:

    Kid + giant cardboard box = one happy kid. A lot of my toys were cardboard.

    I had a homemade kitchen set too, my mom got it from a cousin who’d outgrown it. I kinda wanted those pink plastic ones more, but eh, i did fine with my own. I had a metric tonne of Fisher Price plastic cookware from yard sales etc, so I was happy.

  7. bohemian says:

    If you want some sturdy cardboard boxes find a local high end appliance store that delivers and sets up. They usually have piles of heavy duty cardboard boxes and sheets they are more than happy to give away.

    The one in the picture looks way better than the crappy plastic ones.

  8. xhx says:

    We just bought the mrmcgroovys rivets and built the castle for my son’s birthday party. They are awesome! The rivets go together easily and feel like they’re sturdy enough to hold up for years.

  9. Moimeme says:

    It is very cute and very clever but as my own childhood and my daughter’s turning-of-3 have taught me…curiosity sets in, water WILL be put in the play sink (along with other “ingredients”), and you’ve got yourself one effed up little adorable cardboard kitchen. Lacquered wood is used for a reason.

  10. soundengineer says:

    woohoo! now that’s what I’m talking about. well done, mom.

  11. TechnoDestructo says:

    Those rivets look like a choking hazard.

  12. mrmysterious says:

    If I was going to spend all that time I would make it out of something other than cardboard.

  13. ACruzer says:

    Wait, Did anyone read the last sentence? A Box cutter? How is that a good toy for a troubled …. Oh… You could make the coffin out of cardboard…

  14. formergr says:

    I think making it out of MDF would be a good compromise between cardboard’s ease of use and wood’s durability. No need for sanding, and easy to spraypaint, too.

  15. nuch says:

    @ACruzer: I thought it was for when they reach their teenage years and start cutting themselves. Or hijacking planes or something. Kids do the darnedest things.

  16. thomas_callahan says:

    I think a lot of commenters missed the entire point of making it out of cardboard — cheap and easy. MDF and wood are not “easy” since they require tools other than a box cutter. Not to mention the whole anti-mass-production good-life-lesson aspect for the kids.

    And honestly, if it does fall apart after a year, SO WHAT!? Toss it and make another, or more likely the kids will be on to something else by then anyway.

    And my kids would have a ton of fun “helping” build it in the first place, certainly more fun than putting together a plastic or store-bought wood one.

    I made a cardboard chair project in college (art school, go figure) and my chair survived about 6 months of being used as a chair in the common area of our dorm. Sometimes multiple college kids piled onto it, rough treatment, etc. — by the end it had a few holes from sharp things hitting it and some stains but structurally it was completely sound. One of my roommates made a bunch of 8- or 9-inch tall cardboard Legos and used them to make the chair so you could reconfigure it as needed, it was very cool (and held up well too).

  17. bonzombiekitty says:

    Why even bother building the kitchen? Just give them the cardboard box. I had way more fun with a cardboard box as a kid than I did with any sort of toy house or something. Really, in kindergarten, there was a big cardboard refrigerator box that we could play with. It got used more than any other toy in the room. It was in such high demand and there were so many fights over it, the teacher had to make a schedule of who can use it and when.

  18. theblackdog says:

    @Moimeme: Thats probably why there’s a cake pan being used for the play sink.

  19. amoeba says:

    I like to read articles where creative and practical people do crafty things for their children. My grandfather was a carpenter, he had his own shop (furniture) so I enjoyed and played wood toys as a little girl.
    In other hand, I wouldn’t pay 7 dollars for a how to do kitchen set. I guess many creative people will check the pics (as I did) and make their own. That will be interesting.

  20. fireshaper says:

    I can attest to using Mr. McGroovy’s cardboard rivets for projects. I had a PDA I was using as a GPS in my car and the sun would overheat the PDA while I drove, so I made a cardboard “visor” and put it together with duct tape. When I found these cardboard rivets, though, it made it so much easier to put together and now I don’t have to worry about the duct tape pulling off.

  21. formergr says:

    @thomas_callahan: If it’s thin enough MDF, you can still cut it with a box cutter– just run the blade down the MDF against a straight-edge, snap it to split it, and then run the box cutter down more more time if that top layer is still holding it together.

    And I’m not sure how making it yourself out of MDF or wood (with the kiddoes “helping”)ruins the “the whole anti-mass-production good-life-lesson aspect for the kids” of which you speak??

  22. kelmeister says:

    I got a cardboard kitchen one Christmas when I was little. Destroyed it from overuse in about a week. Then my brother and I took it outside and used the carcass as a sled.

    It was the greatest Christmas gift I ever got.

  23. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    I had a really cheap kitchen set made out of plastic my mom found at a garage sale. It was probably made in the 70’s (I’m a mid-80’s child) and had cardboard on the back which eventually broke apart. But it was all I needed and I think she paid 5 bucks for a fridge, sink and stove/oven. Best of all, the fridge dispensed water. That is, until my 4 year old self decided it should dispense play-doh instead.

  24. @thomas_callahan: “And honestly, if it does fall apart after a year, SO WHAT!? Toss it and make another, or more likely the kids will be on to something else by then anyway.”

    Exactly, how many kids play with toy kitchens for more than a year? Or even a year?

    I’ve also seen people buy things like old TV cabinets at garage sales and convert those into toy kitchens, if you wanted something a bit sturdier. I’d probably go with the cardboard myself, much easier to recycle when little Timmy’s done with it.

  25. superqueen23 says:

    I remember showing up to my Grandparent’s one Christmas and my grandfather and Uncle who lived nearby had built a maze out of cardboard boxes. It covered the whole basement and only kids could fit inside. My sister and I spent pretty much the whole weekend crawling around it. It just goes to show what you can do with a little creativity.

  26. hexychick says:

    Cheap, cute, and she’s not trying to make a massive profit from her plans. $7 is a sweet deal. When I was a little girl, my dad took some old cabinets from a gutted kitchen, anchored them to the walls at my kid height (one up and one low) and my stepmom saved old food boxes or bottles for me to use. She hit up garage sales to find little utensils and plates for me and as a special treat, I got to pick up some fake plastic food once. I thought it was the coolest invention on the planet and I laughed at my friends with their little plastic kitchens… mine was REAL! Looking back, I can see just how poor we were but I never felt it because my parents were creative and did stuff like this.

  27. @hexychick: That sounds like the best play kitchen ever invented. I am impressed.