Kid's Plywood Play Kitchen


Time for a birthday present

My one-year-old's birthday was coming up soon. My wife had noticed he'd been spending a lot of time with the play food and play cooking pots we have, and she thought he'd enjoy a kitchen to play with too, where he could put things in and out of the fridge, oven, sink, and so on.

We live in Congo, with no access to any kind of commercially produced toy kitchens. So she asked me to make one for him. She gave me a photo of a play kitchen from Lakeshore that she wanted me to emulate. It seemed feasible, so I started sketching out my plans for the project.

A few weeks later, we celebrated my son's birthday with a brand new kitchen as the big birthday present.

Step 1:

Design in Inkscape and Sketchup

I started out my design in Inkscape. I first imported the Lakeshore product image into Inkscape and used lines to measure the size of different parts, given the total information about length, width, and height of the kitchen on the Lakeshore catalog page.

With those measurements, I then created different rectangles and other shapes in Inkscape to represent the pieces of the kitchen from front, side, and overhead views. I then created a Sketchup model using the same dimensions of the pieces in Inkscape, just to make sure that all the pieces fit together right. I had to make a few adjustments to the sizes of some pieces in Inkscape as a result of noticing inconsistencies as I created the Sketchup model.

Once I had all the pieces set to the right dimensions in Inkscape, I tried to lay them out on a 4' x 8' rectangle representing a piece of plywood. There was one piece that had to go on a second board (a 14.5" x 16" rectangle). If I were doing this again, I might try to alter the design so that all the pieces would fit on just a single piece of plywood.

Step 2:

Measure and Cut

Using the map of pieces to cut from the plywood, I carefully measured, marked, and cut out the pieces one by one. I started with the pieces that line up along the right side of the diagram. Then I went back and started cutting the pieces from the top down. Since I was cutting with a combination of circular saw and jigsaw, and the cuts weren't always exactly straight, I made sure to mark each new piece measuring from the bottom of the plywood and from the left of the plywood. These were the edges that remained uncut until the very end, and so the measurement from there remained accurate.

Step 3:

Cut Slots

Next I needed to cut the slots so that the pieces would fit together. I hadn't planned this out on the Inkscape drawing so I had to figure it out now, making careful measurements and based on the measurements of where pieces went in the original Inkscape drawing.

This part took a lot of careful measurement, marking, and cutting with the jigsaw. Try to just cut one slot on one board and then the matching slot on a second board. Make sure they fit together correctly. Then move on to a second pair of slots to make sure they fit. Proceeding like that, you're less likely to make any major mistakes.

Step 4:

Glue and Screw the Inner Frame

At this point I was ready to start the assembly of the kitchen.

I put wood glue in the slots, one by one, as I pieced the interlocking sections together.

Then I would pre-drill a hole and screw in a wood screw to hold the pieces together extra-securely.

Step 5:

Glue and Screw the Outer Boards

I proceeded to attach the left, right, and top boards with wood glue and screws in the same fashion. I turned the kitchen on its end at one point to help with attaching the side pieces.

Step 6:

Involve Your Kids

If you can, get your kids involved in your project and help develop young makers!

My four-year-old helped drive a few screws for attaching the baseboard.

Step 7:

Oven Knobs and Faucet Knobs

To make the oven knobs and faucet knobs, I used a door handle saw bit to make circular holes in the plywood. I then filed and sanded the edges smooth, 

Step 8:

Fridge and Oven Door Handles

I traced the shape of a handle we had in our house onto plywood and used the jigsaw to cut out the shape. With little filing and sanding, these became the door handles for the oven, freezer, and refrigerator.

Step 9:

Color the Knobs and Handles

I used a red permanent marker to color the hot water faucet knobs and the stove knobs. I used a blue colored pencil to color the cold water faucet knob, the oven knob, and the freezer, refrigerator, and oven door handles.

I left the fourth "handle" in its natural wood color. It will actually be the water faucet.

Step 10:

Apply Varnish

Varnish has been applied by this point.

It was at this point that I applied a couple of thin coats of varnish to the kitchen. The kitchen frame was all put together and the handles and doors were cut out but not yet attached.

You could probably do the varnishing before you put anything together which might make it a bit easier.

I also varnished all of the knobs and handles after they were colored, just by dipping them in the varnish and then leaving them to dry.

Step 11:

Cutting Out the Sink Hole

I did this in the wrong order. Don't be like me.
We were having a hard time finding the "right" bowl or container to serve as a sink in this toy kitchen. Options are somewhat limited in Brazzaville. Thus, by the time we found a nice rounded metal bowl that was the right size, I had already glued and screwed together the entire kitchen.

It was easy enough to trace a circle of the right size onto the counter top, making sure to make the hole bigger than the main body of the bowl, but a little smaller than the bowl's lip so that it would be able to rest on the counter and not fall through.

The problem was that it then became very hard to cut it out, since the little kitchen shelf above the counter was low enough that my jigsaw couldn't fit.

That's why you should cut out your sink hole  before you put the whole kitchen together. Even if you just leave out that little shelf until the end, that would probably give you enough space to cut the sink hole comfortably.

Start your hole on the inside edge of your mark by drilling a hole that's big enough to fit your jigsaw blade into. Then use your jigsaw to cut all around the edges of the circle (or whatever shape your sink container is). If you do it right, you'll end up with a nice circle piece that you can use in some other project.

Step 12:

Assemble the Faucet Fixture

Several pieces make up the faucet fixture:

  • the faucet (same shape as the door handles)
  • two knobs (one red, one blue)
  • three bolts (one for each knob and the faucet)
  • five nuts (two for each knob and one for the faucet)
  • a base plate (small rectangular piece of plywood)

Start by marking the center of one end of the faucet and drilling a hole straight through it, big enough for the bolt to pass through. Each of the knobs already has a hole through it because of the way they were made.

The bolts have to pass through the knobs/faucet, through the base plate, and through the plywood counter-top. That's 1.5" for the knobs, but about 2.5" for the faucet. It turned out the bolts I had weren't long enough to go all the way through the faucet, the base plate, and the counter-top. So I improvised by sinking a nut into the bottom of the base plate. The faucet bolt threads through that nut.

(A simpler solution might be to find a longer bolt, but this was actually easier for me, and you'll know what I'm talking about if you've ever tried to go shopping for hardware in Brazzaville. There are a thousand micro hardware stores, none of which have what you want. But I digress.)

I measured symmetrical locations for the holes in the base plate, and then used the base plate holes as a guide to drill the holes in the counter-top behind the sink.

Put a bolt through the faucet. Screw the faucet bolt down into the hidden nut.

Put the bolts through each knob and then screw a nut on all the way up the bolt till it touches the knob. This will be a spacer between the knob and the base plate. Pass the knob bolts down through the base plate and then down through the counter-top. Screw a second nut onto each knob bolt from underneath the counter-top. This will hold the base plate and the whole faucet fixture onto the counter-top.
Once all that is fastened the faucet fixture is finished.

Step 13:

Stove-top Burners


I used the spiral tool in Inkscape to design a simple stove-top burner. I printed that out on paper and used scissors to cut out the spiral shape, leaving me with a spiral stencil. I carefully measured the location for each burner on the stove top and then used an extra-thick red permanent marker to color in the stencil, leaving me with four bright red heating elements.

Step 14:

Attach the Oven Knobs

I measured out the distance between the stove knobs evenly, leaving a little extra space between the stove knobs and the oven knob. I marked the placement with a pencil and then drilled holes for the bolts. This is basically the same process as for the knobs on the faucet fixture.

Put a bolt through each knob. Screw a nut on all the way up the bolt till it touches the knob.  That acts as a spacer between the knob and the face plate. The knob should still be able to spin loosely on the bolt.

Put the bolt through the hole drilled into the face plate. Screw a nut on all the way up the bolt so that it holds the bolt firmly in place. This part should be tight - the bolt itself should not spin, only the knob.

After all the knobs are attached, mount the face plate onto the kitchen just underneath the counter-top, attaching it with wood screws and glue.

Step 15:

Attach the Doors

  1. Three pencil marks for pre-drilling the holes where the hinge will attach.

  2. I used clamps to hold this piece upright so I could drill the holes more easily.

Before drilling or cutting, take a good look at how your hinges work and how you want the fridge, freezer, and oven doors to operate. In order for the hinges to hold well, you want your screws to be a relatively long ways into the plywood, definitely more than the 1/2" thickness of the plywood. That means you can't attach the hinges so that the screws go through the thickness. The screws need to go in parallel to the larger surface of the plywood, both on the door and on the part the door is attaching to.

The piece I cut for the oven door was fairly flush all the way around. I needed to cut a small indentation for each hinge to sit in, so that it would close properly.

I didn't think it through, and I cut those same indentations for the fridge and freezer doors, which I actually didn't need. It wasn't awful but it did make the doors have a little gap when they close that didn't need to be there. It's not anything a two-year-old would notice though.

Make sure to pre-drill the holes before screwing in the wood screws that hold the hinges in place.

Step 16:

Attach the Door Handles

I measured where I wanted the handles to be on each door. Then I marked a spot to pre-drill holes for attaching each handle. I pre-drilled the holes. Then I clamped the handle onto the door in the correct location. I then screwed the wood screws in from the inside of each door, through the door, and into the handle. The clamps held the handle firmly in place so that the screw would bite into it tightly without leaving a gap between the door and the handle.

Step 17:

Time to Play!

Well, I finished this project on the morning of my son's birthday, just in time. We wrapped it in a bolt of fabric and stacked his other presents on top.

When the unveiling occurred, he had great fun playing with it and the plastic utensils and fruit my wife had gotten to go with it. The oven, fridge, and freezer play host to a wide variety of occupants including stuffed animals, bowling pins, and toy cars.

Be warned: The main attraction of this kitchen may be as a climbing structure!


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