Children love imaginative play. They also love to mimic things they see adults doing, such as making phone calls, playing hair dressers, pretend hammering (or perhaps you like to live dangerously and let your child loose with a real hammer), playing teachers or mums and dads, and cooking in the kitchen!
A play kitchen was a bit of a non-negotiable for me when I was thinking about how I would put together an engaging playroom for my toddler. But I also wanted to do this on a budget. There are so many options out there it’s hard to know where to start.
Kmart, Target and Big W all have budget play kitchen options available. There are also many, many options available through online stores. And you can basically find a play kitchen to match the theme of your house. There really isn’t a shortage of options. Now the theme of my house is pretty simple and hopefully timeless. I don’t love a lot of colour. I like to keep things simple with whites, timbers and neutrals.
So I looked around a little bit when I was ready to buy my daughter a play kitchen. I wanted something that was pretty minimalist looking rather than something that was covered in decals and looked super ‘busy’. But I also wanted something I could change if I wanted to personalise it a little bit. I had seen the Ikea Duktig play kitchen on so many social media pages in playrooms and play spaces. From here I discovered the world of Ikea play kitchen hacks. There are literally entire websites and businesses dedicated to hacks for this product. They include decals to change the colour of the kitchen, handles, timber stove tops, different coloured sinks, ways to even inset the sink! It’s definitely a trap. Well played, Ikea, well played.
One of my favourite hacks, that I am yet to purchase (add it to the Christmas list), is the cafe decal for the back of the Ikea kitchen. My daughter loves when I turn the kitchen around and pull it away from the wall to magically turn it into a ‘cafe’. There are websites, such as Minnie and Me Interiors, where you can purchase decals that fit the back of your Ikea play kitchen, turning it into anything you want, from cafes to flower shops, post office to hardware store and everything in between. They also have a large range of colours to choose from so you can match it in with your preferred décor. The decals I mentioned are available for $70 to fit the Ikea play kitchen and they have other options available as well for popular play kitchens.
Another ‘kitchen hack’ product I would love to purchase is the wooden stove top from Petit Abode. It is just under $50 and is so beautiful. It definitely fits the aesthetic I am after. However, the only thing stopping me from purchasing one of these is how much my daughter enjoys being able to press the stove button and watch the stove light up! Instead, I might opt for a much smaller purchase and buy myself a little microwave decal so that my daughter can ‘push’ the microwave buttons when she is playing. Although her imagination certainly doesn’t require a decal for this!
Like many other things in my small playroom, I purchased this kitchen second hand from Facebook Marketplace. I love purchasing second hand for a number of reasons. It reduces the amount of waste in our community and environment, you usually pay a fraction of the price, and if it doesn’t work in your space you can usually pop it back on Marketplace and you won’t lose money on it. Buying second hand also meant I didn’t have to build the kitchen myself. Flatpacks and I are not friends and never will be.
Although the play kitchen started off in my playroom, I actually ended up moving it out to our family room, which doubles as another play space for my daughter, because I found it was something she was playing with almost daily and in so many different ways. She loves to pretend cook, or shop, or prepare tea parties at her play kitchen, so it made sense to have an item that was so often utilized, in the space we spend the most time in.
I would love to eventually get a little bit braver and more creative and set the play kitchen up to support the Montessori approach and encourage more practical life skills with my daughter. This would involve replacing the tap with a working water dispenser, replacing the stove top with a usable chopping board, and filling the cupboards with practical, toddler-friendly kitchen items, such as plates, bowls and cups. But for now, I just enjoy watching her let her imagination run wild and potter away in her little kitchen day after day!