Kids' Distraction Area in the Kitchen

Kids' Distraction Area in the Kitchen

Several years ago I created an area in the kitchen dedicated to letting Ada play near me so I could make supper or clean easily. As each season in my life changed that area was updated or moved around in response. I took a picture of my mini kitchen setup for Ada at that time and, years later, when I had another little setup for the kids I decided to take another photo. As the kids got older and then we finally moved to a more open kitchen I found I didn’t need that area so I never got a chance to play with more configurations and thus take more photos. This lack of photo variety made me wonder if I shouldn’t post this but then I figured I should in case you were also debating what to do in a similar situation.

Pinterest image showing two images, both of which are shown below, so you see Zoey building a puzzle in the top and the kitchen setup I had for Ada.

I think this, below photo, shows the first time I created a space for Ada in my kitchen. It came about since we had been gifted a set of play baking dishes and a Melissa & Doug Pots and Pans Set. At that point we didn’t have a play kitchen setup and I thought it would be adorable having Ada beside me ‘cooking’ while I cook. I can’t remember if I set up this space in the kitchen for Ada before or after making her a super simple cardboard kitchen set, that lasted a couple months, but I knew I needed a way to keep her happy in the kitchen with me. I love how this kept all the toys, mostly, together in one space so I could easily put it away if I wanted to use my stand mixer or roll some dough out. The odd time I really needed her happy for longer I made it novel by adding flour or some other item so I got the those few extra minutes I needed and only had a bit more cleanup in response.

Front view showing the Melissa and Doug stand with pots on it, some empty cinnamon and vanilla container on top, and child’s baking set underneath. To the left is a white canister with plastic utensils inside and then beside that is an empty David’s tea canister to play with.
It started out as pots, pans, baking dishes, utensils, and some fun emptied containers to play with.

In case you’re curious in addition to the play toys I added a set of serving utensils, that together were $1 at the Dollar Tree, and put them in an empty, unwrapped, and decorated hot chocolate container. I also added a plastic carton of eggs (Amazon non-affiliate link), an empty vanilla bottle, and an empty cinnamon stick box.

Almost the same items as the above image although this one includes a closed plastic egg set. View is angled from the front with the back items slightly blurry.
We eventually added a carton of eggs to the mix (TOMY Hide and Squeak Eggs).

Over the years I made a larger stand-alone kitchen set so the items in this area were merged into that. I found several different ways to keep the kids distracted in the kitchen in the meantime before realizing that I had extra space in the lower cupboards, since I wanted almost everything up high out of their reach, so I compressed my stuff and took back my counter as I dedicated one, and then later two, cupboards to their puzzles and art. It was perfect for simple things they could do on the kitchen floor or table nearby but be packed away easily when not in use. This worked great for awhile though I eventually noticed the puzzles became out of sight and out of mind for them and the art cupboard kept getting messy and then unused so I eventually moved the art into an art trolley for them so it was easier to see and use. I can’t quite remember if I took back the art cupboard or moved some of the puzzles over to spread them out as we decided to move shortly afterwards.

Kids on the floor going through their artwork with the cupboard door open.
The kids, at first, enjoyed going through their art cupboard and organizing the stuff with me. I had bought two photo boxes from Michael’s previously so they each had a box to put their stuff in that they were working on and didn’t want to share.
Open cupboard showing the shelves of an Ikea bookshelf with the kids art stuff separated and organized.
At first I gave them room in my Ikea cupboard and moved the cans and pantry items to their cupboard. This didn’t work as it was hard to see what I had in their cupboard and, most importantly, I wanted the art accessible but I had to lock the cupboard in case of earthquakes as there was glassware on the top shelf.
Top down view of the art trolley showing the middle and bottom shelves. At this time the paper and stickers were corralled in the center shelf and the stamps and stuff were in the bottom. All the crayons, etc are out of sight on the top shelf.
I later ran out to Michael’s Arts and Crafts, right before bedtime, with Ada to grab a trolley to hold all the art stuff together.

The art trolley had several iterations. At one point I swapped the paper to the top shelf and moved the art supplies down. After we moved I had the paper in it’s own box under our art table, that is almost never cleaned off, and the playdough lives on the top shelf of the trolley for easy access.

Back to the kitchen, as Zoey got older I found I needed an area more dedicated for what she wanted so she could hang out with me in the kitchen. Even though I had both girls at home with me I found Zoey needed it more since Ada had her own art and toys she wanted to play with alone while Zoey wanted to be close to me. I wanted this separate from the shared puzzle and art cupboard stuff so it seemed more special and fun to access. I ended up finding a small and simple plastic drawer system that worked perfectly on the kitchen counter so I could keep the simple puzzles and toys contained in one place but leave it accessible and fun for Zoey to play with… and sometimes Ada too.

Closeup of the bottom drawer showing a repurposed Melissa and Doug stamp container holding a pipe cleaner tree, buttons, crazy straw, felt circles with holes, mini shaped sponges, beads, and a dollar tree balloon weight. To the side is some empty containers and small fabric bag to play with.
I used an empty stamp container from Melissa and Doug to separate all the little toys in the bottom drawer. This includes the mini shaped sponges (found in those little cylinders you add to water), pipe cleaner trees with buttons you can thread on, a crazy straw with felt circles that you can also thread on, and a couple other small and random items.
Side view from before with Zoey now putting a Mickey magnet in the bag. Behind it you can see a book of puzzles and a chalkboard between the drawers and the wall.
Any empty containers or baggies I had changed it up without being too difficult to setup and I could easily recycle the containers later. We had a larger puzzle book and a chalkboard that I kept between the drawers and the wall for easy access.
Two water wow books on it's side and spread open. The second is balanced on top of the first.
The kids loved the Melissa and Doug Water Wow books although they didn’t follow the directions and more washed it all down. I eventually added these and some paintbrushes to the top drawer and by adding water they were easily entertained. They still sometimes pull these books out but now they can get their own water. Once done I taught them to leave it open on it’s side to dry. If I needed more room I’d stack them up.
Back view of Zoey and front view of the closed drawers. You can see Zoey playing with her puzzles.
Just like Ada, years before, Zoey loved being able to pull up a chair and grab a puzzle whenever she wanted to.
Back view of Ada’s head while she sits at the table doing the puzzles.
Ada often came to join Zoey and sometimes took the items back to the table to play with.

I hope this helps you whether you have one child in your care or multiple. I love that they had a space where we could hang out together in the same room but still do our own things. Our current kitchen has the table close to the counter so now they just bring their stuff to the table for the same feeling otherwise I’d attempt to set something like this up again. I’d love to see your kid-centric spaces in your kitchen and find out if this helps you at all so feel free to share with me in the comments below, on my Facebook page, or through Instagram. I hope your day goes splendidly!

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