My parents have told stories about the last minute frantic activity that can occur on Christmas Eve when you have young children. Apparently, after my brother and I were tucked in bed, my poor parents were sometimes up late into the night putting together toys for Christmas! Hearing these stories growing up, I was determined to avoid the last minute Christmas Eve gift stress. We were chatting about what to get Baby E, and came to the conclusion that she loves to bake, and loves to pretend cook with her pots and pans and muffin tray. I have seen some beautiful wooden kitchens in the toy stores here, but they are all quite expensive. After a little bit of searching on Pinterest, I discovered that other crafty parents have made a DIY kitchen for their children out of a second hand bookshelf! I love working on projects, enjoy painting, and thought this would be a perfect meaningful gift for Baby E. And so the search began to find the perfect piece of second hand furniture. This was back in the summer – giving me plenty of time to complete this project before Christmas!
It’s now over four months later and I am just now finally putting the finishing touches on. I wanted to share my progress with you. You too can make your own DIY wooden kitchen in 11 easy steps!
Step 1. Search for the perfect piece of second hand furniture. After a couple weeks, your husband will know to slow the car every time you pass a piece of furniture on the side of the road. Finally find the perfect item for $5 at a garage sale! Still slow down when you pass furniture on the side of the road … you never know what you might be able to create next!
Step 2. Enlist a family member who excels at woodworking projects. It’s important to enlist them early on, so that they feel invested in the project from the start. For me, my Dad was an obvious choice: he loves our daughter to bits, and he has made some amazing woodworking projects in the past. I found that it helped to store the bookshelf in my Dad’s garage/workshop. Not only did I not have room at home, but this also gave time for my Dad to begin thinking about things he might be able to help make for the kitchen!! Right away, he was able to fashion an oven door for the ‘bookshelf’, and make an incredible back with a shelf.
Step 3. Choose your paint colors. Spray paint the piece of furniture outside on the grass, because it’s summer. Yes, that’s how prepared you are. You started this project 4 months before Christmas!
Step 4. Leave the oven outside to dry, forgetting that your toddler will be at Nani & Bubba’s house tomorrow. Cringe as your Mom tells you that your daughter saw the oven (which really doesn’t look anything like an oven at this early stage!) and immediately shouted “my kitchen!!!” At least you know that she will likely love the gift, come Christmas – and hopefully she will have forgotten about it by then!
Step 5. Start collecting and purchasing (with the help of your now fully invested father) the items that will make your kitchen unique. In my case: a magnetic board and alphabet magnets, a bowl and faucet for the sink, door knobs for the cupboards, wooden knobs for the sink and burners, wooden circles for the burners, a picture frame to use as a window, and wooden bottles and container for a spice rack. Remember, one of the reasons you started this project is because you couldn’t spend $200 on the wooden kitchen at the toy store. That’s why we’re making this! So be sure not to keep track of the total money you spend on all of the pieces for your project! Pick things up slowly, so as not to rush the project unnecessarily. This also makes it much more difficult to keep track of the total amount spent on supplies!
Step 6. If at all possible, store the kitchen at your parents’ house while under construction. Ideally, your kitchen will be on wheels so that it can be moved from room to room as necessary. Cover the kitchen with an old sheet of your Moms. Soon, the covered project will become such a constant fixture in the house that your daughter won’t even pause to wonder what’s under the sheet.
Step 7. Begin painting the bits and pieces for the kitchen. I purchased circular discs from Michaels, and painted these black for the burners. I then painted a thin dowel silver, and cut it into pieces for the top of the burners. I purchased 4 wooden knobs for the burners, and painted these bright colors. I also found 2 smaller wooden knobs for the sink, and painted them pink (hot) and blue (cold). It’s best if you can spread out the bits and pieces to dry at your parents’ house as well. You know, to keep everything all together.
Step 8. Some weeks it may seem like you’re not making any progress on the kitchen. Don’t despair – that’s why we enlisted reliable help early on! Marvel at the new things that your Dad has accomplished for the kitchen each time you come over. Building the amazing beaded back board, cutting a hole for the sink and installing the faucet … even making a homemade wooden clock for the backboard! At times it feels like he is single-handedly moving this project along!
Step 9. If you have other crafty family members, be sure to involve them in the project as well. The more family members helping you, the more likely you are to have it finished by Christmas! My Mom is an amazing crafter and seamstress, and agreed to sew handmade curtains and oven mitts for the oven. Baby E will soon have nicer things in her kitchen than we have in ours!!
Step 10. Take soooo long with the project that your Dad starts helping you more and more … thinking that you’re never going to actually finish it. As your Dad has offered to do the final hanging of the magnetic board, the burners, etc. (which cannot be completed until your portion is ready) he will soon start worrying that he won’t have time to finish his portion before Christmas. Console and reassure your father that you started this project in July – it will certainly be complete by December 25th.
Step 11. Realize (in a slight panic) that Christmas is now 17 days away. Acknowledge that despite your incredible foresight and pre-planning, it’s beginning to look like you will be joining the club of parents who are up until midnight on Christmas Eve, frantically working to finish their child’s Christmas gift!! Take comfort in the fact that you likely won’t be alone!
(If by some Christmas miracle I get the oven done in the next couple of weeks, I will post a photo of the finished product!)
With the help of all those invested in the project, the kitchen was ready for Christmas day, and was a huge hit with Baby E! Here is a photo of the finished product (just curtains to go, for the ‘window’):