How to Make Your Child a Cardboard Kitchen out of a Cardboard Box
Because all parents want to know that, right? Actually, they do say kids prefer to play with cardboard boxes than the actual toys. Even if you just had an empty box, they would be straight in it if it’s big enough!
A couple of years ago I made a little car out of a cardboard box and my daughter loved it. It had a steering wheel and I painted it pink. So then I made her a castle! I quite enjoyed doing it, but it took ages. However, she could put her dolls in it if she wanted and play with it. It even had a working drawbridge which was quite cool.
Now she wants a cardboard kitchen
Eva is now four, and spied a box in the kitchen after we’d had an Amazon delivery. She asked for another castle, but I suggested a kitchen instead. She had loads of play food and plates but we had never considered getting her a play kitchen. They are one of those things that cost a lot more money than they would get use out of. Then you end up having this ‘thing’ taking up loads of space in your house once they got bored with it. But the idea of a kitchen made out of cardboard boxes made perfect sense. And it was a new challenge for me!
Our house isn’t that big and certainly doesn’t have a playroom. Eva’s bedroom is full to the brim with Barbies, teddies and unicorns. So I thought I could make the kitchen to the size that fits the (little) space we have and once she gets bored, it can go to the recycling. I love being creative and thrifty at the same time.
Where to begin?
This is where you have to look at the boxes you have and figure out how they’d fit together. We had a flat screen TV box and a couple of regular sized boxes.
I thought about how the kitchen would look and what I wanted in the cardboard kitchen. I initially thought about making a fridge out of the flat screen TV box, then a counter next too it with perhaps a washing machine underneath. But the TV box was too big and looked out of proportion next to the regular sized box.
Next I had a little ‘Google’. I looked online at the toy kitchens you could buy and I got a bit of inspiration. I thought I’d do a cooker with a Belfast sink next to it. Then I thought about making it a bit vintage with some bunting and perhaps a little gingham curtain as a cupboard door.
I had lots of ideas – some of which I discussed with Eva. She wants a washing machine – the idea I scrapped! I guess I could always add to this later on..
I wanted to do this as a Mother and Daughter project, but Eva soon got fed up of helping Mummy. But she did help me out at first with the measuring and marking out which was pretty impressive!
Once I’d got the boxes in position, I cut off the bits I didn’t need. The large TV box was going to be at the back and I planned on putting a couple of shelves in it, so I stood it on its side and cut a window in the front of it.
The two regular boxes needed to sit in front of the large box to represent the cooker and the sink.
The box for the cooker was also put on its side and using lots of tape, I made sure it had a window for where the oven door would go and a top and bottom. The top would be for the cooker dials.
The fiddliest part was putting on the door, as I wanted it to be able to open and close. Initially I used brown tape, but I removed it and used masking tape, as masking tape is easier to paint over, and doesn’t peel off (a suggestion from my husband). I taped along the bottom of the ‘door’, making sure it was flexible enough to open and close.
I then used some paper fasteners (I know them as split pins) and put one in each of the bottom corners of the oven door and one in each side diagonally. Using some string, I tied it to each pin so that when the door opened, it would only open so far. I didn’t want the door to just flop.
I also cut a square of adhesive velcro and stuck it at the top of the door to keep the door closed.
Starting to take shape
I struggled to picture a sink in my head for some reason. So I did end up cutting the other box up a bit too much and doing lots of sticking back together again! I ended up with an open bit at the bottom and a square basin at the top. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was the right size and shape.
The next fiddly bit – that I’m still not completely happy with, was making a shelf at the back. Using a long strip of thick card from the TV box, I cut it to the correct length. Next I made some brackets for my shelf. I did this by cutting three or four small rectangles of cardboard and sticking them together with strong glue. I repeated this five times so I had three brackets along the back, and two brackets at the side.
Using my strong glue, I secured my shelf to the brackets. Unfortunately my shelf warped a little bit which is the reason why I’m not so happy with it. I also made a shelf to under the sink, which seemed better.
Decorating the cardboard kitchen
Now that I was left with the shell of the kitchen, I then started to paint it – Eva helped at first! Eva picked the colours as she wanted one side to be blue and one side to be pink.
I used children’s craft paint, which is easy to use and washable, but doesn’t give you a flawless finish. My kitchen is a bit rustic looking, but you could use acrylic paint or cover over the cardboard with thick paper or thin card.
Once I had painted it, I still had to fix on the gingham curtain, make the bunting and then add the door handle and dials to the cooker. Plus add tiles, cooker rings and sort out a massive gap I was left with behind the cooker and sink!
Making the gingham curtain
Eva and I headed out to a charity shop, because I needed some gingham material. The first thing I thought of was a men’s checked shirt. I manged to find one in the first charity shop I came to which was pretty lucky.
Back at home I used a length of elastic and measured it across below the sink. Stretching it slightly so it wouldn’t sag.
I cut the shirt to fit the drop (it reaches just above the floor), but made it slightly wider across. This was because I wanted it to have a gathered look.
I then sewed a small fold at the top of my curtain with the elastic sitting inside it. I did lose the elastic at one point, so had to gather the gingham material and pull the elastic through. The reason being that the elastic is a lot shorter than the material.
If you don’t like sewing you could use fabric glue to do the same job. Just as long as the elastic is free inside so the curtain can slide open.
Once my curtain was in place, I pierced a hole in the side of the box and threaded the elastic through and knotted it. Then repeated on the other side.
The bunting didn’t take very long at all to make. I already had some pretty floral vintage material, so I simply cut out flag shaped triangles. Then I got a length of string and I super glued the flags to the string. I left it to dry overnight, and the bunting was done. I then stuck it to the shelf using more glue.
The finishing touches
So that massive gap I mentioned before behind the cooker and the sink. That still needed to be sorted. I basically wanted a shelf there but couldn’t figure out how to attach one securely.
So I randomly taped strips of masking tape all the way along. I reinforced it by layering it again, then covered over the masking tape with orange card. It was strong enough to hold Eva’s play food and plates.
I then made some coloured tiles by cutting out squares of card and sticking them above the new shelf, to create a splash back.
I made the hob with black sugar paper cut into circles. Then the dials were made from a cut up toilet roll tube. I covered them with black sugar paper and covered one end. Using split pins, I secured them to the front. They are also movable!
To be honest, I could have carried on forever decorating Eva’s little kitchen. I thought about making hooks to hang utensils, a tap for the sink, shelves to go inside the oven, the ideas are endless!
The beauty of this is I could keep adding bits to it. Although she wanted me to make a washing machine, I was actually going to make a little microwave made out of cardboard on the top shelf. But as my shelf is a little wonky, I didn’t!
I hope this brings you inspiration and perhaps you could knock up a cardboard kitchen? Maybe complete with washing machine and microwave?