When I was young, my parents made an entire play house for me from recycled cardboard boxes. This series of articles gives step-by-step instructions for easy, DIY child-sized play appliances and furniture. This article covers the play sink and refrigerator projects. To make these easy cardboard play appliances, in less than an hour, you will need cardboard boxes, box cutter or sharp scissors, permanent marker, plastic dishpan or tub, duct tape or box tape and two pump dispensers from soap bottles.
To make a play sink from cardboard, tape a cardboard box closed. Turn the box upside down. Find a small plastic dishpan or tub. Hospitals often send patients home with small plastic tubs that work perfectly for this. Measure the bottom of the tub and cut a rectangle from the top of the cardboard in this size, leaving a frame of cardboard around the hole. Push the plastic tub down into the hole you cut. The cardboard frame will hold the tub in place and create a ‘sink’.
To make faucet, spout and handle for your play sink, save two pumps from plastic dispenser bottles. Foaming hand soap dispensers look the most realistic. Cut small holes in the back of the box sink. Drop the plastic pump dispenser pieces into the holes so that just the top pump part shows through. Inside the box, tape the bottom of the pump to the side of the box. Children can pretend to run water by pressing pump dispenser, or you can make separate pretend handles. To make a faucet handle, poke an old pencil or straw through a bottle cork, or piece of play dough molded into a ball. Cover with duct tape. Cut a hole in the back of the cardboard near the ‘faucet’ you made. Tape the pencil to the back of the box inside the box. The ‘handle’ will move back and forth slightly. Label the cardboard ‘hot’ and ‘cold’. Put an empty, clean bottle of dishsoap out for pretend clean up jobs.
You can make a refrigerator, by duct taping pieces of cardboard is a taller upright box to make a shelves. Place an old plastic dishpan or plastic box in the bottom for a vegetable drawer. If you cover all cardboard surfaces and seal edges with duct tape, your cardboard appliances will last much longer. I put a small clothing rack near the play kitchen to hang aprons and chefs hats. It’s very important for children in their imaginative play, to dress the part. If you are concerned about head lice being passed by sharing hats, you can simply provide aprons. You can also provide each child with a paper play hat. See my blog Free Printable Activities for printable paper hat templates that children can fold to make.