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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!