Before diving into this post, please note that this DIY IKEA Play Kitchen hack is not my idea. I learned about this wonderful idea from Theresa at Montessori in Real Life. Click HERE to learn about the toddler kitchen area she set up for her daughter, Dakota.
I’ve been meaning to set up a hand-washing and food prep station for Mariam for some time now. One of the first areas that Montessori scholars recommend to have is an area in the kitchen where children can eat their meals and work on practical life activities such as hand-washing and food preparation.
There are so many wonderful ideas out there as to how to go about setting one up. Coincidentally, about a month or so ago, I came across Theresa’s IKEA kitchen hack and instantly fell in love with the idea. I also appreciated how she went about storing the dishes and utensils in the cabinets of the kitchen, right under the water source. It greatly resembles the set up that adults have, so a child feels a connection between their area and the area for adults.
To make this kitchen come to ‘life’, we ordered the IKEA Play Kitchen and installed the parts that we wanted Mariam to use (if you look at the image of the kitchen on the IKEA site, we left out quite a bit). The idea here isn’t to encourage pretend play, but rather to make everything accessible and purposeful for Mariam so that she can learn more about practical life in the kitchen.
Before buying and setting up the water dispenser, I gave Mariam the opportunity to explore the kitchen set up and get used to accessing her dishes and utensils from the cabinets first. A day or so after getting familiar with the cabinets of the kitchen, we set up the water dispenser for hand-washing. I didn’t want to overwhelm her with all of the ways in which she can use the water (filling her cup to drink, washing dishes, washing fruits and vegetables, etc), so we’re sticking to hand-washing for now.
She’s been using her kitchen so far for about a week. I plan to slowly incorporate the following items at her kitchen area one-by-one over the next few weeks:
– Soap dispenser
– Sponge for washing her own dishes and a small soap bar plate to hold the sponge
– Cutting board for food preparation (which will take the place of the play stove)
When introducing such a major (and important) area with many parts and potential, being careful not to overwhelm a child with introducing everything at once is crucial. Think of it as an adult being given a toolbox with many tools and screws and being told how to use each tool all at the same time; it’s very overwhelming and difficult to absorb the information all at once.
So far, she really enjoys her ‘kitchen’. She likes getting her dishes for meals and utensils to make eggs or pancakes. She also loves to wash her hands and ask for “bubbles” when she wants to use soap. I haven’t yet worked with her on unloading her dishes from the dishwasher and placing them into her kitchen cabinets. This is definitely something we will be working on soon!
As far as how much ‘play’ goes on with this toddler kitchen, my husband and I have modeled that the water is for washing hands and not for splashing around and leaving the water to constantly drip. We gently redirect her to a water sensory activity or to take a bath if she’s in the mood to splash or play with the dispenser. This isn’t to deprive her of her own area and ability to explore. She has plenty of room to make choices and decisions based on what she is interested in. Allowing her the opportunity to understand the purpose of her kitchen helps her practice respect for her materials and proper use of the materials.