This past week we set up a functional toddler-sized kitchen for K (who is now 16 months) in our kitchen.
We’ve started off using this functional kitchen as a handwashing station, but eventually, it will serve as much more (we didn’t want to introduce too many new things to her at once).
When K is ready we will teach her how to pour her own drinking water from the water jug, get her own dishes and utensils for mealtimes, and help with meal prep.
Why Have A Functional Toddler Kitchen?
Teaching practical life skills is important with the Montessori Method and having a functional toddler kitchen is the perfect way to introduce many practical life skills such as washing hands, pouring water, prepping food, cutting, and more.
Yes, it will get messy at times (and things may get broken) but I think it’s important to teach them these skills early so they can start developing some independence.
On top of independence, they will gain fine motor skills that are important for toddlers.
K will also be going to a Montessori school next month, and the teachers encourage independence with their snacks and meals – so it’s a great learning tool to prepare her for school as well.
How Did I Make This Montessori Style Toddler Kitchen?
This is actually a kid’s “play kitchen” from IKEA, that was converted into a functional toddler kitchen. We got the idea from Montessori In Real Life.
We built the kitchen following the instructions but left off a few key pieces:
- Fake Stove – We used a regular-sized wooden cutting board in place of the battery-operated stove. This is a great space to prep food (pour cereal, cut fruit, etc)
- Fake Sink Faucet – Instead we placed a large glass drink dispenser with a tap that K can use. Because the sink doesn’t drain we have to try and make sure not to fill the jug too full until K has learned that the sink can overfill.
- Top Storage With Fake Microwave – There is supposed to be an entire attachment on the top of the kitchen that had some storage and a fake microwave. We didn’t have a use for the microwave and liked the looks of it better without the top section.
- Plastic Legs – For now we left off the plastic legs to make the kitchen shorter and a better height for K (we kept them in storage to use when she’s taller.
What Activities Can Be Done At The Functional Toddler Kitchen?
Washing Hands – The first activity we introduced to K at her new functional kitchen was washing her hands. She quickly learned how to turn on the water tap and put her hands under the water to wash them off. Afterward, she wipes them dry with the hand towel…and then usually re-washes them a few times!
Filling Her Glass With Drinking Water – The second activity we’ve introduced to K is filling up her mini glass with water to drink from. We started storing a few dishes and glasses in the cupboard, and she will be able to grab her glass out and get her own water. Because she still likes to splash around in the water, we are careful with how full we fill the water dispenser. 🙂
I highly recommend all families who are trying to incorporate the Montessori approach into their home get some sort of functional toddler-sized kitchen set up.
We found that 16 months was a great age to start with K (although some kids may be ready earlier or later). She quickly caught on to how to start and stop the tap, washing both hands, and how to dry them off afterward.
I will update this post when we’ve taught K how to do more in the kitchen!
Love the setup – thanks for the inspiration! Could you share a link for the cutting board and water dispenser please?
Thank you 🙂 they are from Homesense and Dollarama (unfortunately I don’t have a link to them directly)
How did you teach your daughter to not play only with the water jar? My daughter would empty it and then ask for more water.
Hey Adriana, to date we still haven’t gotten to that point 🙂 … she is 22 months and we only fill the jar sometimes (with a bit of water to make sure it wouldn’t overfill if she left the tap on). Sometimes she will point and ask for us to fill it for her so she can fill her water glass (and play) with the water. So, it’s still a work in progress for us too!
How did you (or did you) attach the cutting board to the kitchen? Thanks!
Hi Julie, it actually isn’t attached and it just sits on top of the hole. It’s heavy enough and has little sticky rubber pads to keep it in place!
My daughter is 16 months old and she likes to take things out of a shelf/cupboard/drawer. I’d like to keep her eating utensils in her functional kitchen but I’m concern about she’s playing with glass and plates/bowl, break them, and can possibly hurt her. Based on your experience, do you have any suggestions how to introduce new concept that the utensils in her toy kitchen are not toys and also prevent her from playing with them?
Hey Amanda, we introduced the real utensils, glass cups, and dishes at a fairly early age with her food and she never was really interested in playing with them much so we don’t have a lot of experience with that. But when she does use something in a way we don’t want her to we would usually say something like “Oh, that isn’t a toy/for throwing/etc … would you like to use this instead?” We also have a few drawers in our kitchen that have plastic cups/tupperware that we would re-direct her to in that case… do you have anything like that?
We recent set-up a very similar kitchen for our 22 month old! Did you guys attach the glass water container? Our daughter is very small for her age and cannot yet reach the top of the container to hold it in place when she opens the spout. Any advice you have is greatly appreciated! Thanks!
Hey Jenna, no we haven’t attached the water container. Do you have a smaller container? Ours is pretty heavy which helps it stay in place. Good luck!
I would love to use this idea in my classroom but it looks like there is not enough space for a glass water jug behind the “sink” bucket. I currently use a glass jar but according to the photo and measurements seems tight. did you have a specific jar measurement that worked?
Hey Amanda, the jug we bought does hang over the edge a little bit. We didn’t shop around too much for something small, but I imagine it might be tough to find one that fits perfectly (but I’m sure they are out there)!
What brand is the water dispenser?
We found it at our local Dollar Store 🙂
This is brilliant! This IKEA kitchen is on my Christmas wishlist. My son will be 15months by that point. I’d like him to enjoy the top art arch ent of the microwave before we consider removing it… do you think we’d be able to fit a small water dispenser at the sink with the top attachment intact or would there not be enough room?
I’m just beginning my journey into Montessori and am currently reading The Montessori Toddler and learning so much! Looking forward to checking out your blog for practical help with adopting a lot of the ideas!
Hi Elena, sorry I’m not sure if it would fit as we never had the top portion. Thanks for reading the blog!
Hi. Love the article! A good reminder too start small and scaffold skills. I was wondering how high it is from floor to counter without the legs. I am planning to set this up for my little one, but want to wait until he tall enough. It’s really mind-bending when you look at how short young toddlers are. We put up coat hooks the other day and they’re only 19” off the ground. We’re also need to take about 5 inches off the IKEA tabled chair set we got. It’s so important to get down to their level when setting things up!
Keep up the good work!
Thanks Heather, you too!
Hello! Is there any way to link this particular kitchen? I’ve been going crazy looking for it because I love the simplicity of it. Thank you!
Hi Cristina, you can find the play kitchen here: https://www.ikea.com/ca/en/p/duktig-play-kitchen-birch-60319972/