Abe’s Backyard Play Kitchen

Abe playing in his kitchenย I love Abe’s new play kitchen. I’ll just come right out with that. I am utterly charmed by it. I might redo my own kitchen as a grown-up version of it, complete with a mulch floor and non-functional plywood stove burners.

I’m also excited that it was such a cheap, recycling-heavy project. Especially since I’m sort of shocked about how much we’ve spent on the entire swingset (more on that when we finally finish it)….I don’t know how we could have done it much cheaper and still gotten what we wanted….but it’s nice that THIS part, at least, was a bargain.

The wooden crates under the counter are the only things we bought new. We could have made something similar or some shelves or something out of scrap wood, but we got these for around $8 each (using coupons), so it seemed worth it for the time it saved.

All the wood, paint, and hardware we already had around (the wood is all scraps from other projects), and all the kitchen accessories came from the thrift store. So the total out of pocket was maybe $20-25 for the crates + all the kitchen stuff. Even the mulch floor was mulch left over from the truckload we had delivered (free) last year.

I’ve been planning and collecting inspiration pictures for this kitchen for quite awhile now (Apartment Therapy did a round up of several great ones). The swing set is really scaled more for older kids than for Abe (or for future Abe rather than present Abe, depending on your perspective). This was intentional, of course, since we wanted the older kids to get plenty of use out of it, too. But it means that there’s not a lot Abe can do out there: he can climb up the ramp himself, but he needs help to do the slide, and it will be quite awhile before he can manage the rock wall himself. He LOVES to swing, so once that part’s up, he’ll be pretty happy. But we also liked the idea of a kind of playhouse area in the bottom part that he can use independently right now.

First we had to deal with the weedy mess under the tower (note: it is still a weedy mess AROUND the tower. Our weed whacker is broken). We decided to put down a layer of newspaper and then cover it with mulch. This will serve the dual purpose of keeping the weeds under control and providing an endless supply of mulch for Abe to use as play food in his kitchen.

weeds under tower bottom of tower with mulch and newspaper


Milo moved when we started dumping mulch on, but Athena really didn’t want to.

Abe acted like the mulch was the most horrifying thing he’d ever encountered and he’d certainly never be able to WALK on that stuff. But he got over it eventually:

Abe and Milo check out the mulch

We decided on a counter made out of scrap plywood and the wooden crates from Michaels to go under it for storage. I stained the crates with some deck stain we had on hand:

unfinished crate stained cratesEither I did a really bad job with the staining or the crates were really bad at taking stain, but it came out very light. But that’s okay….I wanted to give them some kind of protective coating, but they’re also under a roof and won’t be getting hit directly with rain, so I think they’ll hold up okay for a long while.

Dave cut out a plywood rectangle for the counter:

scrap plywood counter


Then screwed this board to one end to make the part that would eventually attach to the bottom of the swing set tower:

board attached to plywood


He cut out a hole with the jigsaw for the “sink” (a lid from a big pot that I picked up at the thrift store) and then cut two “burners” out of more scrap plywood:

hole for sink sink in hole tracing circles for stove burners plywood stove burners


I painted the burners dark gray with the paint leftover from our front door (I was going to put a coat of polyurethane on them, too, but it turns out leaving your can of polyurethane in the garage all winter is terrible for it. So I don’t actually have any anymore).

painted stove burnersWhen we built the swing set tower, we put this siding stuff over this one side, because the screws from the rock climbing holds were poking through. But there are solid boards behind those, and Dave found them and screwed the board under the counter into them. There are just three screws, so it should be pretty easy to move it up higher when Abe gets taller:

play-kitchen26 attaching the counterThen he used some more scrap wood as the legs (it was actually pretty sturdy without these, but since Abe’s favorite activity these days is climbing, they seemed like a good idea) and just attached them to the counter with deck screws:


Finally we attached the crates under the shelves with just a couple of screws through the backs (we were going to leave these loose, but Abe started to pull one out the second we put it under there, so attaching them seemed wise).

Abe helped with all of this, of course:

play-kitchen13-smallย I found a pack of hooks that we bought for something or other but never used, and I put a bunch of those in the wall above and next to the counter.

We attached the burners with a single screw through the center of each, put in all the thrift store dishes, and we were all done!

Abe says, “let me give you a tour of my new kitchen:”


backyard play kitchen play kitchen sink backyard play kitchen backyard play kitchen shelfAbe’s already having a great time with it, so it’s gratifying to see that he likes it (almost) as much as I do:

Abe playing in his kitchen big smile in the play kitchen cooking with mulch Abe stirringMilo and Gus had a friend over the day we finished it, and I found them all out there playing restaurant as soon as I set up the dishes.

Gus playing in the kitchenFuture plans for this little area under the tower include making a counter opposite the kitchen that can function as a play store or restaurant or the kitchen table or whatever. I want stump stools, because of how adorable that would be, but I’ll have to track them down somewhere, since we’re short on trees ourselves.

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend/Mothers’ Day! I got a new Kindle, and I read a WHOLE BOOK!

Step by step instructions for making this backyard play kitchen--almost entirely out of recycled and thrifted materials!

Linking with:

Inspire Me Please Linky Party

The Creative Collection

Link Party Palooza at I Heart Naptime

The Best of the Nest

June Before and After at Thrifty Decor Chick

The Inspiration Exchange


Abe’s Backyard Play Kitchen — 28 Comments

    • Thanks, Di Linh….the kids were dragging all the chairs from the firepit under there before; I like this use of the space better ๐Ÿ˜‰

  1. Love it. Are you getting Tracy’ old plastic tiny table and 2 chairs? I heard she was giving it away! Instant restaurant.

  2. MUD PIES! It was my dream to have an outdoor play kitchen. Instead I had to play run-away-orphan. If only my mom knew this was all she had to do…

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  6. My children are way past this stage of their lives but I love what you did. Brings back such good memories of their childhood. It develops their minds and self worth. Imagination starts here. Love seeing boys as well as girls play like this. Men are wonderful cooks and they start at an early age defining their interest. Great job.

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