100% Post-Consumer Waste Recycled, Collapsible Play Kitchen

Posted on January 20, 2013

I wasn’t planning on making a play kitchen, but then my son played with his cousins’ play kitchen at Grandma’s house when we went to visit for the holidays.  The fun he had there, coupled with the fact that certain real-life kitchen tasks like cutting vegetables are better done without toddler help, led to the creation of this play kitchen:


Play Kitchen Features

  • Toaster oven (on left side of kitchen) with:
    • Viewing window
    • Temperature knob
  • Pantry (on left side of kitchen)
  • Dish drying rack
  • Sink/faucet/turning knobs
  • Dishwasher with:
    • Slide-out top rack
    • Soap dispenser
    • Radio on/off buttons
  • Oven with:
    • Slide-out baking rack
    • Turning temperature knob
    • Viewing window
  • Two stove-top burners with turning knobs
  • Refrigerator (on right side of kitchen)


Repurposed Play Kitchen

Here is a shot of the play kitchen with the dishwasher and oven doors closed.  A bit of the toaster oven (top left side) and pantry (bottom left side) are shown here, too.  I wasn’t thrilled about the random repurposed gift ribbon stitches on the otherwise pristine dishwasher door, but they hold on the soap dispenser (as seen in the first picture), which my son loves to put things in and open and close.

Play Kitchen Collapsed

The best part of this play kitchen is that the entire thing folds flat when not in use, so I can tuck it away somewhere when I need to get it out of the way.  The toaster oven, pantry and refrigerator on the sides of the play kitchen are made with recycled shoe boxes that are designed to collapse.  The dish draining rack next to the sink slides down on the cut-out track I made for the repurposed twist-ties that hold it in place.  The sink is made out of recycled t-shirt fabric from my rag pile to ensure it is three-dimensional when in use, and flat when the play kitchen is collapsed.  To make the kitchen faucet fold flat, I copied a pop-up from one of my son’s books.

Left Side of Play Kitchen

Unfortunately, the play kitchen collapsed so well that I was having trouble getting it to stay standing, especially when my toddler was using it.  Thank goodness I had hoarded some “pizza box stacks” (those three-pronged plastic things that keep the lid of a pizza box from collapsing into the melted cheese on top) from our last pizza night.  The entire play kitchen is held up by two repurposed pizza box stacks inserted into the different sections of the collapsible shoe box that serves as the pantry.  I may go onto Freecycle to see if I can get two more to add to the toaster oven (above the pantry) for added stability.

Play Kitchen Sink

Here’s the play kitchen sink in progress.  I started by hand-sewing the recycled t-shirt fabric into a tube shape, then hand-sewed the bottom of the tube to the recycled cardboard base of the sink.  Then I pinned and hand-sewed the top of the fabric tube to the countertop of the play kitchen.  Before sewing, I pre-made all the thread holes in the cardboard with a needle or a hole punch.

Play Kitchen Sink Inspiration

Here is the inspiration for my collapsing sink faucet, found in The 12 Bugs of Christmas: A Pop-up Christmas Counting Book.  The sink is a bit mangled here because my son tries to use it like our real sink, which has a telescoping faucet.  I think I’ll be adding some recycled velcro and re-designing the faucet with the pull-out feature.

Repurposed and Recycled Materials Used

All materials used for the play kitchen were recycled from post-consumer waste.  Glue and tape would have been handy at times, but neither of those things can be recycled after being used, so everything was sewn together and/or attached using twist ties and repurposed thread or recycled ribbons.  Here is a list of the “garbage” I’ve been hoarding that I used in this project.

  • Play kitchen frame: large cardboard box opened at the side seam, turned inside out so the box design doesn’t show, then sewn back together with twist-ties
  • Pantry, toaster oven, refrigerator: New Balance shoe boxes
  • Viewing windows for oven and toaster oven: packaging waste
  • Handles for toaster oven door and oven door: straws
  • Fasteners for holding the play kitchen pieces together
    • Twist ties from our weekly cloth diaper service, produce, and general packaging
    • Ribbon from Christmas presents (my mom fished these out of the trash for me)
    • Thread from my sewing kit that hadn’t been touched in 20 years and wasn’t long enough for a real sewing project. (I had hoped to use repurposed thread taken from the seams in clothes from my rag pile, but hours of seam ripping got me nowhere and I gave up on that plan)
  • Knobs and dials: lids from juice cartons, milk jugs, and bottled drinks
  • Dishwasher soap dispenser: the flip-top lid from a package of baby wipes
  • Dishwasher on/off radio buttons: a wine cork cut into two pieces, both pieces were screwed onto a small plastic taster spoon, and a scrap piece of rubber tubing leftover from when I replaced my leaking toilet valve was used as a fulcrum (did I really just use the term “fulcrum” in describing my play kitchen materials?).
  • Dishwasher handle: cardboard and foam from packaging (you can’t see the foam, but it makes the handle stick out so you can reach under it to open the dishwasher)
  • Stovetop burners: plastic lids from yogurt containers
  • Play kitchen supports: pizza box stackers
  • Other odds and ends: a lot of cardboard

Lessons Learned

If I were to do this project again…actually, I probably wouldn’t.  I almost gave up on this recycled play kitchen several times and did a fair amount of searching for one that I could buy secondhand.  In the end, since we don’t have a dedicated space for our play kitchen, I finished the project so that we could have one that folds flat when not in use.

In the future, rather than investing countless hours building a structure from 100% post-consumer waste recycled materials, I could better use my time reducing my waste in the first place.  This project was an eye opener to the amount of waste we produce.  Collecting kitchen parts for this project helped me realize that while our garbage can doesn’t get much use, our recycling bin overfloweth, so the biggest lesson learned here is that I have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to using resources.

Comments of“100% Post-Consumer Waste Recycled, Collapsible Play Kitchen”

  1. KiKi says:

    how has nobody written a comment about how wonderful this is?!!!!! I’ve seen the same collapsable playhouse on Pinterest a dozen times over but THIS is a real creation. I’d love some more detailed directions but that may be the visual learnt in me. Congrats on making wonderful work!

    • Felicity says:

      Thank you for your kind words!

      Sorry I don’t have any instructions. Part of it was just luck. The things on the sides (toaster oven, pantry, refrigerator) are made from shoe boxes I’d hoarded before starting the project. They just happened to be designed to collapse just the way I needed them to and fit perfectly in the space of the bigger box. The pull out dishwasher shelf and oven shelf design need some work. They didn’t really withstand toddler use, but luckily, my son doesn’t seem to care. My advice I’d add to the blog post is to make sure anything you add to the main kitchen box is set to bend in the same direction as the main box so that it will all fold properly. Also, if you don’t have “pizza stacks” to put in place to hold the whole thing up, I’ve now found that electrical socket plugs for baby proofing (the plastic pieces with two prongs to stick in electrical sockets to keep baby’s fingers out) work just as well.

      Thanks, again, for stopping by and for commenting!

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