Nature’s Sensory Fine-Motor Play

This was an accidental ‘discovery’…

‘Darth’ was playing happily in the paddling pool in our back garden, whilst I sat in the chair watching him, shelling peas freshly picked from the allotment, ready for our evening meal. A carrier bag of fresh peas in the pods, a steamer pan and a bag for the empty shells. This sorting activity was too tempting for ‘Darth’ and he came toddling straight out of the paddling pool to investigate.

After watching me for a few minutes and babbling about ‘peeez,’ he decided to join in. But he wanted to sit down, so ‘Darth’ took me by the hand and led me to his chair at the dining table. I opened up the pods for him and he used his thumb and fore-finger to take each individual pea out, carefully placing it in the steamer ready to be cooked later on. Then, he checked that all of the peas had been taken out of the shell and placed it into the carrier bag with the others. I instantly thought ‘wow! fine-motor skills and a sorting activity that I didn’t even mean to give him!’

Then, he started smelling the peas… a strange image, I know, but the fresh peas smelt so amazing as they popped out of their pods, ‘Darth’ noticed and was using his senses to explore them further. I was surprised that it took him 30 more minutes until he put one in his mouth… but then it was hard to stop him nibbling at them! (too many raw peas = stomach ache and bad nappies!)

Eating Vegetables – A Few ‘Dos and Don’ts’ Suggestions

Earlier on, I was shocked to read online that some Mums put sugar on their children’s vegetables, or even peanut butter, to make them sweeter so that their kids will eat them.

There really is no need… not only are FRESH vegetables like peas and carrots sweet enough, covering them up with sugar can give them the message that ‘these are nasty.’

Instead, be brave… help your child develop savoury taste buds. You can use sweeter veg like peas, sweetcorn and carrots, but they can and will love other things, too, given the chance over time. Naturally, there are certain things we all like and dislike, but here are the rules we try to follow:

No ‘hiding’ vegetables in every meal – they are good enough to have their own place on the plate.

No ‘covering up’ the taste. This only makes the problem worse.

No ‘forcing’ your child to eat them. Often, a ‘you don’t have to eat it’ approach makes it seem like no big deal and instantly stops it being a battle.

DO keep putting a range of vegetables on your child’s plate.

If you have a baby, DO use vegetable puree and try to limit the amount of fruit puree.

DO involve your child in growing fresh vegetables (see my ‘V is for Vegetables’ post for the importance and benefits of growing vegetables with your child.

DO involve your child in preparing the vegetables.

DO let them play with pretend vegetables in a play kitchen (see this REALLY easy 10-step DIY Play Kitchen)

Finally, DO let your child see you eat your vegetables, with that ‘no big deal’ approach.

 

Happy pea-shelling!!!

Louise x

Printable List – Summer Bucket List

To go with the immense popularity of the DIY Summer Bucket List post, where you could create a visually stunning bucket of ideas (or stick them on your fridge,) here’s an even handier version… on one sheet, in list form for you to tick off! What are you most looking forward to doing? Comment below… I’d love to know!

Download the list below – simply rick click the image and select ‘save as,’ print off and enjoy!

Summer bucket list building blocks and acorns

V is for Vegetables

I’m so excited to be part of the ‘ABC Nature Series’ 26 bloggers (including me,) from “all corners of the web will be joining together to share a nature themed post beginning with a specific letter of the alphabet!” ‘School Time Snippets’ have hosted this wonderful series, so make sure that you go and check out their site!

I chose to write about vegetables, as it’s often seen as a ‘boring’ topic and can often be seen as too difficult, or too time consuming to even attempt to grow any vegetables. Well right from the start, let’s set a few things straight; growing vegetables is easy, quick and you don’t even need much space. Even a plant pot will do, for certain vegetables! We have an allotment and I was so inspired when we visited the Great Yorkshire Show, I had to share some tips with you all to get you started if you’ve yet to try ‘growing your own,’ or encourage you if you already are!

Growing veg is also something very close to my heart, as my late father taught me all there is to know about growing organic vegetables and instilled in me a strong belief in growing food organically. This means no chemicals of any kind, touching the soil, plants and ultimately food you want to end up on your plate and effectively eating those chemicals!

Why not just buy your veg?

Although we have our own allotment patch across the road, we still buy some vegetables locally. But growing your own (especially with your child,) means:

  • They will know where their food comes from! (and so will you!)
  • You have control over what goes in the soil (and what doesn’t, so you know it’s organic!)
  • Your child is far more likely to want to eat something that they have grown and nurtured; they will be so proud of even the tiniest of potatoes!
  • It’s cheaper to grow your own!
  • You get to spend time outdoors with your child, on a shared activity.
  • It promotes scientific questioning and understanding.
  • Your child gets to be closer to nature.
  • It’s natures own messy sensory play! It doesn’t get more sensory than getting your hands stuck in the soil, pulling out the most delicious smelling carrot!
  • It’s a REAL experience, that is meaningful to the child.
  • You can’t get food any fresher than when you grow your own. The fresher the vegetables, the higher the nutrition content.
  • For many vegetables, you can freeze them, so you can use them throughout the year.

Getting Started

It’s so easy to get started! Firstly, look at the space you have to grow vegetables with your little ones. Only grow what you would normally buy, to begin with.

If you’re nervous about growing plants from seed, then head over to your local garden centre and see what’s growing. Get yourself some vegetable plants that have just started growing.

Use good quality compost, where possible. The nutrition from your soil will ultimately end up in the vegetables you grow and that you and your child eat. The better the soil, the better the veg!

Keep the soil moist

Have fun! Don’t worry if something doesn’t quite work out the way you wanted it to. Your little one will have just enjoyed being outside with you!

Keeping Costs Down, but Style Up!

Be creative! Use hula-hoops as growing frames (ask your local toddler group or school to let you know when any break!) I saw this idea at the Great Yorkshire show and just HAD to use it on our allotment!

If you have plenty of space, you could use pallets to create a ‘bug hotel’ to encourage beneficial insects to help out at your allotment. Yes, really! This is one of the principals of organic vegetable growing. For smaller spaces, even something as simple as some cut lengths of bamboo tied together, can become a habitat for bees and ladybirds!

Another principle is ‘companion planting.’ Planting specific varieties that will draw insects towards them (and away from your prized vegetables!) Combining this with a habitat for mini-beasts such as ladybirds to feast on those pesky little aphids, will help to keep nature in balance!

You could use old pipes and guttering to assemble an individual raised area. Strawberries especially benefit from this, as the fruit can’t touch the ground, so doesn’t rot as easily! The downside: More watering, to keep the soil moist.

Tips for Growing Vegetables with Little Ones

  • Give your child a space of their own to grow a few fruit and vegetables. Try to combine some root vegetables, with others such as courgettes.
  • Read books about growing plants and about vegetables, with your child. See further down this post, for a book list!
  • Keep wet wipes handy! Don’t worry about the soil – just be sure that your child doesn’t touch their face, so watch them carefully, and just let them enjoy!
  • Protect plants and soil from harmful animal faeces by putting fruit netting over them. It will also prevent birds and other wildlife nibbling at your crops!
  • Plant a little more than you want, to begin with – to allow for a few crops being prematurely pulled up by your child!
  • Let them pick their crops, rinse them and eat them within minutes… carrots taste incredible when they are freshly picked and it’s such a great way of teaching children where their food comes from!
  • If you have an allotment space, try creating an outdoor play space for them to keep them occupied whilst you do the not so fun parts, like weeding (unless they’re a particularly good helper!)

Creating a Runner-Bean Tipi

This is so easy to do, but makes a fantastic play space!

All you need is some garden canes, some twine and runner bean plants!

Start by positioning the garden canes an equal distance apart, leaving space for the ‘entrance.’ Be sure to push them into the ground enough so that they are secure if knocked.

Then tie the top canes together with plenty of garden twine.

Before you plant the beans, it’s a good idea to weave twine lengths around the tipi (again, don’t forget to leave a space for the entrance!) This helps to support the plants as they grow. Do it all of the way up now, to save having to do it later (and risking trampling on your plants!)

Finally, plant your runner bean plants into the ground, so that the plant will grow onto the tipi frame.

Simply keep the ground moist (and as weed free as you can manage,) and enjoy!

Want to see a photo of the finished thing? I have a confession to make… shortly after planting up the young runner bean plants, our chickens managed to escape and decided to eat the majority of the plants! Oops! But Darth still loves playing inside the tipi frame and it should stay standing, ready for next year instead.

Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle

Use these principles when growing vegetables, no matter the scale of your space! These are such important environmentally friendly principles to teach our children and there is no better way for them to learn, than experience it for themselves. As they grow, they will be able to see inspiration in all sorts of every-day objects and apply it for how it could be used to help grow vegetables, whilst avoiding waste and unnecessary cost.

Books to Encourage a Love of Vegetables

There are some lovely books out there, which can complement what you are doing with your child! Check these favourites of ours out:

‘The Enormous Turnip’ by Cristina Cerretti

‘Rah rah radishes!’ a Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre

‘Carrots Grow Underground’ by Mari Schuh

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‘Insect Detective’ by Steve Voake

 

 

 

 

‘Oliver’s Vegetables’ by Vivian French

‘Yucky Worms’ by Vivian French

Enjoy teaching your child about a variety of vegetables! If you’ve enjoyed this post, you’ll love our Summer Bucket List Free Printable!

Louise x

Free Printable Summer Bucket List

Summer is here and before you know it… it’s gone!

Every year, I always have that feeling come the start of Autumn and I think ‘where did that time go?’

People ask ‘Did you have a good Summer? What did you do?’ and I always struggle to answer, because I realise I’d planned all of these activities, then just never got around to doing hardly any of them! Having a little one of my own, now, making the most of the Summer we spend together is SO important and means that there are even more opportunities for outdoor play and exploration.

So I decided to create my own bucket list, of the things I would like ‘Darth’ to experience this Summer. I wanted it to be flexible… after all, it is a bucket list for a toddler!

So I’ve come up with 70 ideas and turned them into a free printable, to share them with you! So now, you can just print the file out and get planning your Summer! Don’t worry… there are PLENTY of rainy day activities, too!  For the link to the printable, just keep reading…)

Note: As I do each of these activities, I will write a short blog post about them and link to it through this page, so keep checking back!

Build your own Summer bucket list. Here are your first 40 activities to choose from:

Set 1

  • Make a no-sew tipi – This is something I’ve made a start on and will be posting up, soon.
  • Fly a kite
  • Go camping
  • Go on a family bike ride
  • Make a bug hotel
  • Make a nature ribbon stick – This is ticked off my list and I’ll post up the images soon!
  • Collect shells and pebbles
  • Chase bubbles outside

Set 2

  • Plant seeds and watch them grow
  • Go for a woodland walk
  • Visit a pond and feed the ducks
  • Paddle in the sea
  • Make homemade stepping stones – This is one that lots of my followers have requested and is coming soon!
  • Grow sunflowers
  • Play in a paddling pool
  • Build a sandcastle

Set 3

  • See a live music performance
  • Go strawberry picking
  • Play in the shallows of a river
  • Eat toasted marshmallows – link this one up with going camping and build your own experiences!
  • Make mud pies
  • Build a natural den
  • Go on a boat trip
  • Cool off with ice sensory play.

Set 4

  • Go on a nature scavenger hunt
  • Have a family photo taken
  • Help attract butterflies and bees
  • Stay up late and gaze at the stars
  • Visit family – visit those family members you haven’t seen for a while!
  • Paint with nature – blog post coming soon!
  • Watch fireworks
  • Go on a treasure hunt

Set 5

  • Be creative with stones – just one idea I’ve tried out, above (using chalk pen on pebbles we had collected.)
  • Do a barefoot paint walk – blog post coming soon!
  • Visit an animal park
  • Have a water fight
  • Visit friends – visit those friends you haven’t seen for ages!
  • Try new food. Go and check out the amazing Super Healthy Kids for brilliant ideas!
  • Have a BBQ with friend
  • Improve an outdoor space.

So go ahead and get started on planning your Summer of fun and magic! Download the first of two FREE printables, here: building-blocks-and-acorns-summer-bucket-list-sets-1-to-5.pdf.

Now available: The second (and final) set of the FREE ‘build your own summer bucket list’ printables (including rainy day activities in purple and some blank for you to add your own!) Get it here: bucket-list-building-blocks-and-acorns-sets-6-to-9.pdf

Simply print out and enjoy your Summer!

Top tip: Take a photo of each as you do them, and create a summer scrap book/photo album! (See the ideas below, too.)

Ideas on how to use the printables

  • If you’re short on time, simply print them out and tick them off as you do them!
  • Print them out and string them all up, or choose which ones you want to do a week at a time and string them up with pegs.
  • Print, cut out and create a poster of the activities you really want to do.
  • Print out onto white card and fix onto the top of lollipop sticks and display them in a ‘bucket!’ Pick them out when you have done them.
  • Print out, laminate and fix a sticky magnet on the back. Pop them on your fridge as a reminder of the things you really want to do this summer! Remove them as you get them done. Don’t forget to save them for future Summers, too!
  • Print them off, cut them out and use them to create a Summer scrap book or photo album with these as the headings for all of the images!

Quick note: Please feel free to share these with your friends, but please direct them to this page to get the file, so that I know how many people are enjoying them! They are for personal use only.

Enjoy!

Louise x

Easy-Peasy DIY Outdoor Bunting

As you may already know, I have a couple of different play-spaces for my little boy, ‘Darth.’ These are outdoor spaces; one is a nature-inspired play pit, and the other is an open-ended outdoor play space, also with nature in mind as it’s on our allotment. I was (rather ironically,) inspired by one of my blog-followers who had sent me in this photo of her play space. Here’s the ironic bit… she sent it in, because she’d been inspired by both of my outdoor play-spaces! But then I couldn’t stop looking at this image and wishing I had some bunting. Lauren bought hers from Sainsburys and it’s wooden. But when I got there… there wasn’t a piece of bunting in sight. (sigh.)

I really wanted some bunting to bring a bit of summery colour to the spaces I have for ‘Darth.’ But nothing seemed to be quick enough (or affordable enough,) for me to do. It either required sawing pieces of wood, laminating card, or buying, cutting and fixing oil-cloth triangles together. Then, I had a (very rare) light bulb moment whilst in the home section of a different supermarket (Tescos, if you’re asking)….

What are they? Plastic place mats! And with the chevron pattern that I am just crazy about right now, I had to get them! It is SO simple to turn these two place-mats into beautifully strung-up bunting, you have to try it!

These are great for summer parties, for decorating a summer house, a play house, or perhaps even a play space like ours. And what’s great is, you don’t even need them to be used outdoors… they look just as great, inside, too! So find a pattern you love and get making. Here’s what to do…

All you need is: Plastic place-mats, a ruler, a sharp pencil, some scissors, a hole-punch and some string/ribbon.

Step 1. Get yourself a ruler and a pencil. Draw out just one triangle (on the reverse side,) that you’re happy with and cut it out. IMPORTANT: If the bunting will be within your child’s reach – you will need to round the corners, as these can be very sharp.

Step 2. Use this as a template for the rest. Draw around it on the reverse side of the rest – be sure to tessellate the triangles, to get the most from your place mat!

Step 3. Carefully position your hole-punch so that the holes will be central. Punch those holes!

Step 4: Thread through your string/twine/ribbon… whatever you want, into the holes. Be sure to do this so that the string is only over the bunting in between the two holes on the same piece, for a neat finish. (Take a look at the picture to see what I mean!)

And there you have it… gorgeous outdoor-proof bunting!

If you have a go, be sure to send a photo via Facebook or e-mail louise@buildingblocksandacorns.com

Here’s a little ‘behind the scenes’ image of ‘Darth’ with the bunting, we used on a rainy day to brighten up his DIY Play Kitchen!

Enjoy!

Louise x

Recycled Crayons

The weather here right now is pretty miserable… it won’t stop raining and the sky is so dark all day. We need some colour in our lives!

This is hardly an original idea… you can easily find images of recycled crayons that have been melted into a new shape. But what you don’t always find is exactly how to do it, and all of the top tips that can help along the way! Well look no further! (Except maybe down the page a little bit, hehe!)

We have a couple of broken crayons, but really I wanted to do this to encourage ‘Darth’ to use crayons more. For some reason he just hadn’t really taken to them yet… until they became star shaped!! These would make the perfect gift or party-bag filler and could also be great for seasonal things like Easter egg shaped crayons or Christmas tree crayons!

Top tip #1: Use a deep, oven-proof mould

I came across this silicone mould in a local craft store, in the sale… for £1. Bargain!! It’s deep enough so that I can pile broken pieces of crayon on top (they soon melt down to around half the height!) and can make 10 gorgeous star-shaped crayons at a time.

Top tip #2: Thin crayons break easier!

Crayons are fairly easy to break, but the thinner the crayon, the quicker it will melt and the easier it will be to break it into smaller chunks.

Top tip #3: Colour co-ordinate

As gorgeous as a completely multi-coloured crayon would be, it’s going to be pretty useless for any actual colouring in! So limit multi-coloured crayons and stick with a colour scheme of one or two colours per newly melted crayon. Go with the rainbow tones, to ensure that using the new crayons will be fun and easy! Try using two parts of orange, for example, and one part yellow.

Good Colour Combinations

red + orange

orange + yellow

green + blue

blue + deep purple

deep purple + lilac

purple + pink

skin tone colours work well mixed into one crayon

White should be left by itself

You could contrast the colours, too:

black and orange (melt and cool the black first. Once it’s totally cooled, melt the orange separately and carefully pour it onto the black, to create an orange base!)

Blue and orange

Red and pink

You could even create some striped flag colours, using the technique mentioned above for black and orange!

What to do

1. Grab your crayons! They’ll need to be broken into small pieces.

2. Choose your colour combinations – remember to limit them to two or three, to make them usable! Your little one might be able to help you with this – you could even turn it into a colour sorting activity!

3. Stack up the pieces in your oven-proof moulds. They’ll need to go a little above the top, because they melt down more than you’d think!

4. Put the mould on a baking tray and pop it into your oven at 120 degrees C (which is around 250 F,) for 15 minutes.

5. Pop any air bubbles and stir in any slightly less melted parts, using a cocktail stick (this swirls the colour too, so take care if that’s not the look you’re going for!)

6. Allow them to cool and harden for a few hours. If you try speeding up the cooling process, they may crack, so just be patient.

7. Pop the crayons out of the mould. If you want a neat base, then keep them in the mould, melt a little more wax using the same method, then carefully pour over the set crayons in the mould. Once that has cooled and totally hardened, then pop them out.

Ta da! You now have some shiny new crayons! I can’t wait to get colouring… I mean, err… I can’t wait to see ‘Darth’ colouring!

 

Dinosaur Small World – Sensory Tub

So ‘Darth’ is a little OBSESSED with Dinosaurs right now (he has a few dinosaur books,) but didn’t really have any opportunities for play experiences with dinosaurs… we didn’t own any (until now!) I changed all of that with this dinosaur small world sensory tub.

What’s the point of it? Well… it provides a setting for ‘Darth’ to play with his dinosaurs in; it puts them in context and encourages LOTS of wonderful imaginative play. Being a small world tub, it’s all nice and contained in an under-bed storage tub, meaning it’s mess-free – bonus!!

The base is made up from dry split-peas and black coloured rice (simply put some rice and black food colouring in a zip-lock bag and shake! You can add a few drops of alcohol hand-gel to prevent the colour from staining your little ones hands when they play… just be sure they don’t eat any!) The base is then PERFECT for scooping and pouring, and picking out, so it’s great for developing fine-motor skills through play!

I’ve also included herbs for some pre-historic foliage. This gave the tub a wonderful scent and enhanced the sensory play opportunities. Combining the different textures of the items in the tub, with the different colours and scents means that the brain is more stimulated and open to learning and retaining information.

So what exactly did I use?

On my weekly trip to the supermarket, I picked up a £3 bag of dinosaurs and two bags of dry split peas. I already had rice and black food colouring in the cupboards, and some herbs and rhubarb growing outside. I grabbed the small pebbles, pipe cleaners, coloured pom poms and glass beads I already had in my craft cupboard. So it’s hardly cost me anything, but has been played with for days now (I don’t think it’s getting packed away any time soon!)

I also wanted to add a volcano… so I simply used a pudding tin from the kitchen cupboards, an empty toilet paper tube and some tissue paper! I’d run out of orange tissue paper, though… so an orange carrier bag got the chop!

How to put it all together

I began by putting the base down, using the split-peas for a lush green, the black rice for the lava and create the effect of a stream using the blue glass pebbles. I held the rice back and created a neat edge, using small pebbles. Large stones added to the pre-historic landscape!

Then, simply add your volcano, dinosaurs and pom-poms. Add the vegetation last; rhubarb leaves make great pre-historic looking plants and the herbs (especially parsley,) looked fantastic as ‘trees.’

For an added bonus and something to scoop up the loose parts with, I added half of a plastic egg from my Spring-themed Sensory tub earlier in the year.

So here it is… the finished product! Enjoy!

Louise x

P.S… if you haven’t done already, hop on over to Facebook and like us!

 

 

Recent Happenings

So I haven’t actually blogged anything myself on here, since the enormous success of my 10-step DIY Play Kitchen, but there have been lots of things going on behind the scenes…

 

 

Guest Post on Life Over C’s

I’ve done a guest post, where we made a beautifully simple butterfly garland, using home-made white clay. Come and see it over at Life Over C’s.

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post on Teach Me Mommy

And my second guest post is an invitation to play, using an easy home-made play dough recipe, and elements from nature! You can see this one, here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABCs of Building Blocks and Acorns

Finally, this week we have been features on the Kids Co-op Network, with an ABCs feature… come and read my ‘interview’ here!

Guest Post: Creating a Fabric Collage with Kids

Fabric Collage

Thank you for having me over to share Louise!

This is one of my favourite ways to collage, because it is frugal(using off cut pieces of fabric) and the possibilities are endless!

Here is what you need:

- Off cut pieces of fabric. Light weight fabric(cotton/polyester etc) works best.

- We worked on contact paper this time, for a mess free activity, but ordinary cardboard and glue works fine too.

- Scissors

For older kids one could just provide the material and let them have a go at creating a collage.

 

Older child collage

Younger kids will need assistance in cutting the fabric, so here I pre cut the fabric into shapes for my almost 4 year old. I provided a picture which she had to “fill”. You could make this an open ended activity, thus let them create their own picture.

 

4 yr old collage

Older babies and toddlers can also join in the fun! My 15 month old had a go, just sticking the pieces of fabric, and pulling it off again too!

Baby/toddler collage

So much fun, creative learning took place during this activity! Exploring shapes and colours, different textures, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, planning and the list goes on!

Why don’t you try it with your kids today!

Nadia is a teacher turned mommy to an almost 4 year old girl and 15 month old boy. She blogs over at Teach me Mommy about easy and playful activities with the aim to teach. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and G+, she would love to connect with you!

 

10-Step DIY Play Kitchen

I’m so excited to share with you, this REALLY easy DIY play kitchen, which I created for my ‘Darth.’ All it took was 10 easy steps, to create this totally customised play kitchen!

I’d seen some gorgeous up-cycled play kitchens online, crafted from old, unwanted furniture. The results were beautiful, but it seemed as though many took an awful lot of work and I just couldn’t find the right size or shaped second hand piece of furniture that would do the job, without months of work!

It was during a casual afternoon’s wander around Ikea, that I saw this under-the-sink storage unit and thought ‘Wow! That would be the perfect height for a play kitchen!’ And so, my Ikea-hack began!
The beauty of using this Ikea hack, is that there is already a ‘hole’ made for the sink (a silver bowl,) to sit into. There are already cupboard doors, hinges and handles and you could even keep it white if you wanted to. SO easy!

Here’s what I used:
Ikea ‘Fullen’ under-the-sink bathroom storage (I paid £17, which is approximately $28.50 US)
A 1-litre ‘Kitchen Craft’ stainless steel bowl (I paid £5.99 on Amazon, which is approximately $10 US)
A ‘Bygel’ utensil rail (with hookds,) from Ikea (I paid £3.10 for the rail and 10 hooks, which is approximately $5.10 US)
Left-over kitchen and bathroom paint
Left-over chalk-board paint
A spare shelf from our bookcase
A small piece of ply-wood
An old tap we found in the shed (I have NO idea why we have a tap in the shed, but never mind!)

Equipment
Masking tape, a paint brush, a glue-gun, a few screws (to secure the utensil rail and ‘splash back’ bookshelf, a small hand wood-saw/jigsaw, chalk pen (optional)

Total cost: £26.09 (which works out as roughly $43.80 US) for a TOTALLY customised DIY-play kitchen! Bargain!

10-Step Tutorial for this DIY Play-Kitchen

1. I wanted ‘Darth’ to be able to pretty much use the play kitchen straight away, so once it was all assembled, I got straight to painting it with my left-over kitchen and bathroom paint. It took three coats of the paint I used, but it didn’t take too long to do.

2. Once the paint had all fully dried, I used masking tape, to tape off an area for a chalk-board menu! I then applied the chalk board paint, which again, took a few coats but was really straight forward to do. Once it had dried, I just peeled off the tape for a clean finish. I also did this on one of the cupboards to create the look of an oven.

3. Next, I drew around a plate with a pencil, to create the outline of the hob rings on the top of the play kitchen. With a thinner paint brush, I painted this in with the chalk-board paint.

4. With the painting done and all dry, I got my 1-litre Kitchen Craft bowl and wedged it into the U-shaped gap in the top of the play kitchen. Well, that was easy… no trying to cut out a perfect circle!

At this point, ‘Darth’ was ready to start playing with the kitchen – so it got left like this for a while, as he happily played with it.

5. My brother had a spare piece of ply-wood, so I drew around the top of the bowl and where it would need to join the gap between the ‘sink’ and the back of the ‘work-surface’ on the DIY play kitchen. He also had the right kind of saw, so he kindly took it back and cut the curved shape for me. Apparently it’s fairly straight forward to do.

6. Once this had been painted to match the rest of the ‘work surface’ area on the play kitchen, I used my glue-gun to secure it into place. (It’s important to just place the wood on without the tap attached yet, so that it’s not too heavy whilst the glue is wet!)

7. With the glue all dried, I could once again use the glue-gun to secure the tap onto the centre of the piece of wood.

Again, at this point you could actually stop as the kitchen itself is finished! I wanted to add a little something extra to enhance it, so opted to do a ‘splash-back’ area with space to hang the utensils.
8. I wanted to use more of the chalk board paint, to give it a really eye-catching look, so painted it with 3 coats of the spare paint I had. Once this was dry, I used a white chalk pen to add a simple design onto it. The great thing is, that this design can be wiped off and re-drawn with a different design! When my boy is a little older, he may even want to draw his own artwork on, too!

9. The utensil rail just needed securing with a couple of screws on either side.

10. The shelf (for a splash-back,) was then screwed in place securely (making sure that no screws were sticking out anywhere, to keep ‘Darth’ safe.) Read on to see what accessories I used…

Accessories I used:
Utensils (these are children’s play utensils from Ikea)
Pots and pans
A chopping board
Wooden chopping fruit with wooden knife (by Melissa and Doug)
Cream painted chicken-wire basket (from a local shop – Cooking Fantastic, in Killinghall)

All that was left, was to play with it and enjoy!

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Louise x