The kids' favourite thing to do outside in our play area is cook. They make soup, or cake, or tea, or any number of things. To be honest, we make sand pies here, rather than mud pie, for obvious reasons, but sand pie kitchen just doesn't have the same ring to it. A couple years ago I picked up a few secondhand pots, pans, utensils, and a handful of assorted other things to help facilitate this activity, and they have been very well played with. There is a huge rock next to the playhouse that Kaia tries to use as a counter top, but not only is it quite uneven, it is way too tall for her. So a few days ago I decided I would try to throw something together. Something simple, I thought. I'd been considering making something of this sort ever since I picked up the kitchen paraphernalia, so it was about time.
Well, the project did grow on me, as they usually do. I ended up with much more than the counter top / stove / possible shelf that I had started off working toward. Though the project turned out to be a little more involved, it was still very simple to do. This is what the area started off looking like. I wanted to build it underneath the playhouse, where it would give them somewhere shady to play during the hot Summer months, and be a little more out of the way of snow in the Winter.
While it was nice to have structure to start from, the area was weedy, and unused, completely ignored by the kids. When I told Kaia that I wanted to make her a kitchen, she became very excited and started listing off all the things it should have, including, but not limited to, a tile floor, a living room, and a door. *faint* I informed her that I didn't think we'd be able to do all that, but that I would do the best I could. I started with weeding the area out and, wow, was that a job and a half!
That done, I went through the garage, the barns, the closets. I pulled out everything that looked as though it may have some potential. I piled it all in a big heap, and it looked exactly like a giant pile of garbage. If you haven't got barns of old things, go to the thrift store to find your very own giant pile of garbage. Something like an old TV cabinet would work very well for a stove. (Yes, Kaia is back there haunting the woods looking for raspberries.)
I hacked off silly pieces, removed hardware, and sawed off lengths of an old 4x4 to use as legs on the pallets, turning them into tables.
Kaia helped me clean everything up and then I painted it all. I mostly used partially emptied bottles of spray paint we already had, but I did need to pick up a few, because Kaia wanted a rainbow of colours.
I screwed the 4x4 pieces to the small pallet boards after the paint dried. For the sake of full disclosure here, I suppose I'll admit something. You see that screw still sticking out in the background? These were 4 inch long screws. Half of them got that far and stripped out. I called my Dad part way through to have him tell me what I already know, which is that I should pre-drill holes. Of course I should. It just always seems like twice the work. Well, if you don't fancy hacksawing off half your screws and hammering the resulting spike down into a rivet, I would suggest doing the extra work. I reluctantly did so on the second table and, my, did it go much smoother!
For the stove, we screwed a couple 2x4s horizontally on either side of the stove top to the 4x6 supports that were already in place. We rested the tabletop on those, and screwed it down to them. I picked up four round plaques at the craft store that I used as burners, and used my loppers to cut four disks off a small branch to use as knobs. I spray painted them all black and used wood glue to attach the burners. I screwed the knobs to the front edge (first pre-drilling the holes, of course,) with a washer behind each of them, then loosened the screws just enough to allow the knobs to turn. I will want to put small washers on the front, as well, so that they turn more freely, but the only washers I had on hand at the moment were a smidgen bigger than the knobs themselves, so I only put them behind for now.
Kaia picked some of her favourite plants out of our garden for her own kitchen garden. She planted Chives, Kale, Oregano, Sage, and Lettuce.
We've had this faux-brick path section kicking around, not doing much, so this seemed about as perfect of a use as we could ask for. I'd like to see all those weeds come back through that, ha! It will do for Kaia's "tile floor". That was that! It took a couple days of casual work here and there, a little at a time, while watching and playing with the children outside. If I were to have done it by myself in one go, I don't think it would have taken more than an hour or two.
I then moved everything in. I stacked the purple metal cabinets to be the fridge, an enameled metal bowl in a plant stand is doing time as the sink, and I dug a hole to bury the bottom of the yellow table. It was a little worryingly tipsy on the sand, and it was a bit tall, as well, so that took care of that. I had to explain to my three year old what a pitcher and wash basin were. :)
It sure feels good to compare this next picture to where I started!
We went and picked up a few more things at the thrift store, including a little lantern, complete with LED candle, that I hung over the stove top. Kaia is so charmed with it! Sand-cake making has always been Kaia's forte, and while we did already had a bundt cake pan, we found a few beautiful copper molds to add to the collection so that she can take her craft farther. We also found a set of three enameled metal mixing bowls, (the medium sized one is the sink,) a small pot with lid, some more utensils, and a number of other goodies. All in all, we spent around $5 on kitchen accessories and added to the little we had most considerably. The only other thing I bought for this kitchen was three bottles of spray paint, which, as a bonus, I found on sale. While Katalin was napping and Kaia was occupied, I snuck out and put everything in place for them to find. I filled up the big pail under the stove with water, and the sink as well. I hung the lantern, and set the table. Here's the stove.
The stocked shelves, sink, and wash basin.
The table and chairs.
The kitchen garden.
The refrigerator and additional counter space.
Here's the fridge, which still needs a lick of paint on the inside. I'd run out of paint, and figured it could wait. I filled the refrigerator with our old set of spice jars, and various empties I'd saved out over the past few days.
Katalin woke up shortly thereafter, and I invited them out to play. Even though they'd seen me working on the kitchen the entire time, coming out to find it all done and set up was beyond exciting for them, it was like walking out into Christmas morning. They were absolutely delighted and played all afternoon and evening. They played until the light started to fail and we were being plagued by mosquitoes. I finally lured them into the house with the promise of a bath, something they were in dire need of. Watching their eyes light up as they ran to play was amazingly satisfying and fulfilling. Here follows a whole slew of shots of them exploring their new mud pie kitchen. My, but they were busy!
This is Kaia washing her dishes, and washing her hands. She was so thrilled with the sink, she washed her hands almost obsessively. Every little task she did, she had to run and wash her hands again after.
Kaia dunked her blue pail into the larger reservoir of water every few minutes to get more water for yet another task. I'm glad I included that large pail under the stove, or I would have been running for the hose an awful lot!
I have a feeling we will be right back out there again tomorrow morning, the moment breakfast is over.