Caroline’s Custom Kitchen

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m a good shopper. Andy would probably correct that sentence to say “good spender.” This last Christmas we were discussing what to get for Caroline. We just wanted to do one big gift (less toys to clean up, always an ulterior motive) and we had decided on a play kitchen. I, of course, thought I would just Craigslist one (it’s kind of my thing). But Andy had a better idea…DON’T TELL HIM I SAID THAT. He immediately pulled up some images online and showed me how he could build a kitchen for Caroline instead. I can’t be trusted with a pizza cutter (more on this), let alone a power tool, but he’s good at this kind of thing, so my skillful shopping would have to go on the back burner. Sorry for the bad kitchen joke, I couldn’t resist.

I relinquished control to Andy and put him wholly in charge of this project. He didn’t disappoint. Here’s a breakdown on what he did to pull this off, as told by a person who did 0% of the work and has absolutely no technical knowledge.

  • We scrounged up an old cabinet that served as the basic structure for the kitchen. One cabinet functions as a cupboard, where we store play food, and the other as an oven. Andy rotated the hinges to the bottom on the oven side. He installed chains on the inside so that the door wouldn’t fall to the ground and smash little toes.
  • Burners for the stove were created out of cork board, black spray paint and adhesive spray. Oven knobs are real replacement knobs, attached with screws so that they can still spin. 
  • The sink is a stainless steel bowl, dropped into a cutout that matches its diameter (it hangs down into the cupboard side, but takes up little space). Andy added a faucet with twistable knobs to help it feel more real for Caroline.
  • The oven rack is fashioned out of a cooling rack. Andy also added a battery-operated motion sensor light to the top of the oven so that when you reach inside, the light turns on. Caroline loves this part.
  • All surfaces were sanded and repainted and we purchased new hardware. Total, the project ran us about $60-$70. It was worth every penny.

Not only does this look better in our house than a plastic kitchen, it has been a major source of entertainment for Caroline this winter. I’m actually attending a picnic with food prepared in her kitchen as I write this. Gifting it to her was also one of the best Christmas memories I have to date. We honestly sat and watched her play with it for hours, just happy to see her so happy.

If you want actual details on how to build this, send me a message and I’ll let the expert respond. You know, the guy who can actually cut a pizza.

Toys for the inbetweener: What to buy for the not quite three-year-old

In my office, I’m the youngest mom. Other people have kids, but I’m the only one living the toddler tornado as we speak. That means I’m the go-to person for Christmas and birthday ideas for young nieces, nephews and grandchildren. Age always comes up in these requests, something like, “What do two-year-olds like?” But kids are only exactly two for a hot minute, so I’ve compiled a list of toys that I’ve purchased for kids (including my own) in that two to three-year gap.

Pretend Play
Little Tikes Count ‘n Play Cash Register Playset
Kids this age are always being dragged to the store with their parents. Caroline even knows about pushing the buttons on the credit card reader (note to self, hide my wallet). I gifted this cash register to a little guy for Christmas and it was a hit with both him and C. It incorporates two of their favorite things, opening drawers and acting like mom.

KidKraft 63330 Tasty Treat Pretend Play Food Set
Andy built Caroline an awesome kitchen out of an old cabinet this Christmas, so all things cooking were on top of our toy list. This is a HUGE set of play food and it’s held up pretty good in the month we’ve had it. The pieces have endured multiple toddlers and a rambunctious pup with little destruction.

Melissa & Doug Stainless Steel Pots and Pans Pretend Play Kitchen Set for Kids
These are adorable. They might actually be nicer than my own pots and pans. We bought them for C’s kitchen and they’re the perfect size for a two to three-year old. Added bonus that they look and sound real so there is less raiding of mom’s cupboards.

Prepping for a Sibling
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Cute and Cuddly Baby Margaret Plush
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a favorite in our house, so when we stumbled upon the episode about Daniel getting a little sister, we jumped on it as an opportunity to introduce the idea to Caroline. This plush is adorable, comes with its own blanket, and pairs nicely with the book listed below. A lot of two to three-year olds are about to become a big brother or sister, so this is a great gift if that’s the case.

The Baby Is Here! (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood)

Bath Time
Bath time ranks pretty high with toddlers of this age. Caroline will drop everything (including her drawers) when I ask if she wants to take a bath. Two bath products she loves are the Crayola Color Bath Dropz and the Little Tikes Bath Time Tea set. The Bath Dropz are a fun experiment. She likes to pick a couple, toss them in, and see what the color of the bath water is going to be that night. These don’t stain the tub, the kid, or the towels, if you’re wondering. She also loves this tea set and sharing a cup with Zoey, who happily drinks the bath water (she’s gross, I know).

Little Tikes Bath Time Tea

Crayola Color Bath Dropz 3.59 Ounce

On the Road
Fisher-Price Doodle Pro Trip

Kids this age are often at the mercy of their parents and siblings, being hauled over the place in the car. We bought this miniature Doodle Pro for C when we went on a road trip last summer. It’s car-seat sized and provides endless entertainment. I bought this on a recommendation from another parent of a similarly aged kiddo. She was totally right.