Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Our Hobo Kitchen: Reusing Everyday Objects

Play kitchens can be loads of fun for toddlers, but new ones can cost a small fortune.

You can build a kitchen from cardboard or score one at a yard sale (like our $10 kitchen), for nominal costs. Really lucky folks may get hand-me-down kitchens from friends or family.

Our kitchen was bare bones when we bought it. It lacked any utensils or fake food. I was way too lazy to buy the food and utensil sets, so Ranger found it stocked with real kitchen items (duplicates, cast-offs, and rarely used items) and clean, empty food tins and boxes.

While Ranger isn't a dedicated junior chef (probably due to a lack of kitchen role models), all our young visitors gravitate to our pell-mell kitchenette. It actually gets so busy at times that I have to unearth a second phone handset so more of the junior chefs can make important calls.

Jim dubbed it the hobo kitchen because its cookware is primarily old food cans which had their lids removed with a smooth edge can opener.

The idea of a hobo kitchen charms me immensely, as my adoptive grandfather Lonz (Alonzo) used to tell me stories of riding the rails looking for work during the Depression so he could support his young family. I'm sure he cooked over his old tins in far less hospitable settings, but I like to think he'd be proud that those lessons he taught me about thrift and conservation are ones I value enough to share with the next generation.

Current contents of kitchen:
  • plastic travel mugs that I do not like using in the dishwasher
  • some polycarbonate food bowls with lids
  • silicone ice cube trays
  • empty tea and cookie tins
  • clean, empty food cans
  • empty salt shaker
  • plastic drink mix container
  • pot holders I made on a loom during childhood and a random promotional pot holder
  • duplicate set of measuring cups
  • canning funnel
  • manual juicer
  • potato masher
  • baby food jar spatula
What kinds of things do you repurpose as toys?


Amy said...

My kids like the bright colors and still-interesting smells of empty spice containers in their "kitchen."

Amy @

JessTrev said...

I love this post. One of my DDs first playdates' moms ran home and told her husband "Her baby plays in the recycling!" cause we had such fun with her play kitchen. Good ones: baking powder cans with lids, fancy tea canisters, oatmeal canisters, egg cartons, small bottles (vanilla etc). We also throw most of the kid-themed real cookware we've gotten in there (vegetable shaped muffin pans etc).

AJ said...

We scored the same kitchen for our daughter, also for $10, but pink instead of blue. Newer models are laden with obnoxious electronic sounds.

As early as 18 months she was reaching the microwave and making "beep" noises. The oven serves as a fridge half the time. Now at 4, it's proven to be a long-life toy.

Q: Do you have plates and silverware? Or is that part pretend? We bought a separate small wooden hutch (another garage sale find) to serve as the pantry.

One obvious reused item: plastic toddler utensils. We bought stainless steel for our second kid, so we won't be needing plastic again.

Anonymous said...

We got a hand-me-down pottery barn kitchen and a grandpa made refrigerator that matches it. My kids love it. They cook all sorts of interesting food: "Dinosaur casserole," superhero casserole, any toy that fits in the pot meal. We've put an assortment of empty cooking tools, and any utensils that I don't use anymore. It makes for some interesting meals to be made.

Dot said...

We have several of the things you mentioned in The Boy's homemade stove. Some others he likes: A cheap rolling pin, muffin tins, childs gardening gloves as oven mitts. We also have several 'real' cooking items from the Target Dollar Spot. We did splurge on real wooden 'eggs' though, he adores them.


Koekkener said...
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