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Ikea Play Kitchen - Functional Kitchen Hack to Build Early Independence in Toddlers

Updated: Feb 26

One of the BIGGEST pieces of advice that I can offer to all parents wanting to increase their child’s independence is to create opportunities for them to be involved in daily tasks. This can look like inviting your child to help wash the dishes, set the table, put clothes away, or help with other household chores. Incorporating your children in daily activities serves as a confidence boosting way to foster responsibility and early independence. Encouraging your toddler’s involvement in daily tasks provides the opportunity to build their confidence and independence, supporting their abilities to participate fully in their lives. In addition, the skills used to complete these tasks (think fine motor, gross motor, executive functions) serve as great practice and can translate to other meaningful activities in their childhood and beyond.


To effectively incorporate your toddler’s participation in daily activities, it is important to consider the accessibility of the environment. More specifically, modifying spaces in your home to accommodate the size and ability of your child will help with engagement. Since the kitchen is often a space where a lot of household tasks occur, there have been many accommodations we’ve made to increase the accessibility for our toddlers. For example, we have kid-safe knives that they can use for food preparation, a kitchen helper stool to reach the counters, and containing their dishware in a place that they help themselves to.


The most recent change we made was converting the play kitchen into a functional kitchen. We did this by switching out the pretend faucet for a working water dispenser, placing the kids plates, cups, utensils in the kitchen, and adding a mini fridge for easy access to cold snacks. Below are the steps to how we made this happen in one afternoon. 


Step by step to creating Ikea functional kitchen 

Once the kitchen is put together per Ikea instructions you can start creating a fully functional kitchen for your toddler. 

  1. Countertop: 

  2. Take out the faucet, sink and stove part. 

  3. Tape down contact paper with top side up. 

  4. Gently press around the edge of each open space on the kitchen counter to form creases. 

  5. Use a pin to draw a line of where to cut. 

  6. Use an exacto knife to cut out paper on a cutting board.

  7. This step is done best with two people. One person holding an end up and the other sticking it on the countertop. 

  8. I placed smaller pieces for the overhang and use scissors and exacto knife to trim it around the edges.  

  9. Water:

  10. Take out the faucet it comes with. 

  11. Remove the shelf under the sink. I placed ours on the bottom on the other side 

  12. Place the water dispenser on top and push the tube through one of the holes. 

  13. Drill a hole through the lid of one of the water containers. Fill with water and place tube through all the way to the bottom

  14. Place funnel on top of the other container under the sink

  15. Drill holes through each pretend hole on the sink 

  16. Safety locks:

  17. Install per instructions on packaging



Necessary  

1 liter bottles x2 with lids- I found 96oz containers at Dollar General


Optional Items


CONCLUSION: 

Whether it’s taking on a project like this, looking into some of the mentioned items on this list, or simply evaluating whether there are spaces in your home that could use some modification, I hope this served as a helpful resource for you.


Creating accessible environments in your home doesn’t have to be costly or difficult, it can be as simple as moving your toddler’s commonly used items to a spot where they can reach it. Some other modifications you can make is putting out a small water dispenser for them to fill their own water cup, having a basket of approved snacks on a lower level in the pantry, and placing their kitchen items in a cabinet they can easily reach. Another great addition is the kitchen helper stool. Here is a link to the one we have.


Empowering your little one to participate in their daily activities is key to building independence and self-worth. Just as therapists encourage patients to engage in tasks, involving children in daily chores and problem-solving instills a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.


If you are looking for more ways to build skills through play and functional tasks Follow me on Instagram @ConfidentKidsTherapy


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