Ages ago, when I found a couple of really adorable Montessori Toddler Kitchens on Pinterest, I thought, “Wow! I want to do that for Anneliese!” but after every single mini fridge I tried to buy off of craigslist or facebook was already claimed, I settled for less of a “kitchen” and more of just adapting things already in our kitchen, which worked okay but wasn’t as DARLING.
I had moved the kids’ cups to an accessible drawer, and the “water plug” (as Anneliese calls it) is already kid-accessible too. I made a snack drawer and put pre-mixed (by me) trail mixes and little bowls in it, for Anneliese to grab at any time.
It worked well for a while, but lately she’s been more into Real Kitchen Stuff. Wanting to help wash, peel, and cut fruits and veggies. Stirring and pouring. Wearing her little apron. Sweeping and cleaning spills. And standing inside the refrigerator, door open, scanning for snacks.
So when a mini fridge popped up on facebook for $20, I swung into action. It was meant to be. It was Time. Time for a toddler kitchen. Under the “breakfast bar” type area seemed like the perfect place to tuck a little kitchen corner, so that’s precicely what I did.
Oh, and that $20 mini fridge? Did not look so cute when we picked it up. It was originally fake wood grain ugly brown, and the girl I bought it from had spray painted it with chalkboard paint, which dried with drips, and which was littered with phantom chalk words that hadn’t quite erased. Oh, and no shelves.
So we took off the door, and I painted everything aqua (which we had mixed to match the paint I used for some picture frames in our dining room several months ago). My husband cut some shelves from pegboard and painted them white. I’m looking for a new handle because this one is ugly/aesthetically broken, but it works for now.
See? These are the frames it matches. I love the color but I think the craft paint color was discontinued (I couldn’t find it anywhere), so I’m pretty excited to have the leftover fridge paint for other projects.
Anyway, back to the toddler kitchen! We went to HomeGoods in Fresno to look for some sort of shelf or cabinet that would work, and found this great white bathroom cabinet – I guess meant to store extra toilet paper and shampoo and whatnot. But it’s the perfect height for the kids and looks great in our dining room. I also picked up the mini colander and the small cutting board there.
Inside the cabinet, I have the kids’ dishes, a shelf of snacks, and water cups.
The children’s cutlery is in an organizer thingy from the Target dollar spot a while ago. The small plates and bowls are just the bread plates and dipping bowls from our dish set.
The glass spice jars from Ikea are perfect for holding trail mix ingredients – and they’re easy enough for Joseph to open when he wants to, but not so easy the caps will fall off accidentally. I replenish snacks while the kids sleep, both at night and at naptime, so I only need to load the cabinet and fridge with enough snacks for between breakfast and lunch, and then between lunch and dinner. That keeps choices obvious and limited, and potential messes or waste minimal.
The “rules” are simple – the kids may have anything from their cabinet or fridge any time they want, but when it runs out, they have to wait until they sleep (presumably after the next meal) for it to be restocked. And at this point, Anneliese is also reminded to share, because she is very enthusiastic about “my OWN cabinet” and “my OWN fridge” but they’re really for Joseph too, who is learning just as she is.
Here is Anneliese preparing a snack of trail mix for herself. (When she says “orange and yellow must match Joe” she’s talking about his snack container – so adorable.) This is right after I introduced the cabinet and snacks to her. I love that she puts everything away without being reminded to; she’s really stepped up to the responsibility of having Her Own Kitchen.
A lot of Montessori people seem to be only interested in real glass/ceramic cups for kids. I teach my kids how to use those, but I recognize that I don’t walk around all the time with an open-top glass cup, or only drink water at my chair at the dining room table, or bring glasses into the car… so I’m good with lidded straw cups (or sport bottle things) for the kids too.
This video is kind of funny what with the louuud noise… thought I’d share it anyway. Also, I think I’m going to get rid of these cups. The snap-on lid is too hard for Anneliese to do herself, but she can do screw-on lids just fine. Joseph likes to play with the straws until everything spills too, so… these aren’t my favorite.
Anneliese has had a lesson in washing fruits and veggies in her colander, and knows she can use her step stool to access the kitchen sink to do that whenever she needs to. She’s also had a cutting lesson and will have more in the future. We use a butter knife and I show her how to curl her non-cutting-hand fingers under a bit and keep her fingers clear of the blade.
Bananas are a great practice fruit to cut, but she has also done nectarines and a plum. At breakfast, she likes to use her smaller “kid knives” to cut her eggs or pancakes on her plate too. She’s getting really good at it!
Inside the fridge, there is room for a few cold snacks. I’m going to make some small containers of frozen peas or “peas n carrots” for the freezer section, and the main section can hold unfinished breakfast or lunch to snack on later, fruits, containers of yogurt or applesauce, or “squooshies” (refillable squeeze pouch things) full of smoothies or whatever, hard boiled eggs, or chunks of cooked chicken or ham. Again though, not too many choices at a time, and only enough for between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner – since refills happen while kids are asleep.
The kitchen isn’t “finished” yet, but I figured I’d share it now instead of waiting however long until it’s “perfect.” I’m going to add some decorative touches like framed photos and a vase for flowers. I’ll also put hooks up for Anneliese’s apron (and make an apron for Joseph) and for some child-sized towels (which I need to make) to hang on. I also plan to have a basket for cloth napkins, placemats, and a few more small prep tools.
I love our toddler kitchen because it’s fully accessible for both kids (which – as a bonus – means less “Can I have a snack, Mom?” for me), beautiful to look at, and safely out of reach of the dog. The kids love it because it gives them more freedom and responsibility, and because it’s just FUN to do your own “cooking” and food preparation.
Just for fun, here are a few phone pics from the last few days of our new kitchen setup.
Joseph can access snacks too now, but still needs a little help “getting started.” He’s asking me to start peeling this banana for him.
Anneliese washing some fruit in her colander.
She found some honeydew slices in the fridge.
“Shopping” for a snack.”
Is a functional toddler kitchen something you’d consider for your house? What would you include or leave out? Anything important I’ve forgotten?
I'm a Navy wife and stay at home mom of two beautiful children. I cook simple, delicious, grain-free recipes, do crafts, decorate my home on a budget, and keep a happy household. I tandem breastfeed, babywear, cloth diaper, practice elimination communication, homebirth, and co-sleep, but I'm not a hippie.
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