We've also noticed that lately the kids have had the most fun and play in the longest stretches, when they pull out all of their stuffed animal and dolls (which we limit the number on) for imaginative play. They set up a classroom and play school, make a tea party and write invitations for the guests, bust out the pop-up tent for a camp out....and they love playing restaurant.
We actually prefer that the kids build up a great supply of a few particular toys/activities instead of a bunch of random ones. An extensive Lego stash will lend itself to hours of creative play, a fantastic collection of art supplies can keep little ones busy and creative juices flowing, and in this case, a great supply of play food and kitchen items makes for some pretty awesome dining experiences.
But like anything else, we still need to take an editing eye to these items, getting rid of ones that are broken or seldom used. And they need to be organized with a system that's easily accessible and easy to maintain...or else they will just end up all over the house.
That's where this bookcase comes in....
It was originally in the office but didn't really fit our needs or the new direction we're taking in that room. It's also very narrow, so a bit limiting in what it can store. The kids play kitchen is in our kitchen and great for entertaining the kids while mom or dad gets dinner ready. But all of the play food was throw into a sad, crunched fabric bin in the family room, lost under various pieces of furniture, and stacked in a random pile under a chair in the dining room.
The only extra space for storage in the kitchen was next to the fridge but there's also a doorway leading to the laundry room there, so keeping it clear for traffic was important. This narrow bookcase was the perfect solution. It was really cute, but of course, I couldn't just leave her alone :)
This unit had a narrow panel of mdf screwed to the back, so I just removed it and pulled out a graphic piece of fabric from my stash to fit.
I took a can of spray adhesive and covered the entire piece.
Then I took my uncut piece of fabric, lined it up with the top and left edge of the back panel and smoothed it out from there. I ended up with an excess of fabric on the right side, so I took my scissors and cut off the extra.
I just used the right edge of the panel as my guide.
My piece of fabric was a little short but this part of the panel is behind the drawer on the bottom of the cabinet and is not visible.
Here she is all covered and trimmed.
I screwed the panel back on the unit and then started gathering all the play food. I separated the food into piles by type.....felt cookies, felt sandwiches/tacos, wood brownies, plastic food, etc. I tried to think about how the kids would use them and then searched my house for baskets that were large enough to hold the food but small enough to fit the narrow bookcase. I also grabbed any toys related to cooking or restaurant play that would fit the cabinet dimensions.
We went from this...
Let's start at the top and work our way down...
The cabinet is really tall and the kids can't access the top two shelves. We took the extra space as an opportunity to move our baking supplies out of the pantry and into this unit. It's only a few less steps but it seems so much more convenient not to have to go into the laundry room for these frequently used items.
A couple of metal-rim tags from the same Martha Stewart line identify our baking basket (with vanilla, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, etc) and our basket of sprinkles and cupcake liners.
Then we get into the toys. Below the baking supplies are the kids' pizza and birthday cake play sets.
Next is a basket (I ended up purchasing 2 of these from Target) for plastic/play food and the kids wooden brownie set by Melissa & Doug.
The kids cash register sits on the next shelf down and that little basket to the right holds the food/toys that go with the register. Notice the lone carrot in the basket.....the kids have a mission to find the other pieces.
The last shelf holds all the felt food. The tub on the left is for sandwich/burrito/taco pieces, and the box labeled 'doughnuts' is holding the felt cookies. For now. Once we locate all the doughnuts, they'll go in the box and the cookies will go in another bin.
Finally, the drawer on the bottom holds plastic plates/cups/utensils/etc and all of the play pots and pans get tucked away into the play kitchen drawers.
We are so pleased to have all of the play food in one place for the kids' to access! They can take things right over to the play kitchen and easily put things away when the "meal" is over.
We still have a few things left to do....the bin on the bottom needs a label and we do have some food that's M.I.A. But at least as we find them around the house, we know exactly where to put them away. We also want to create a spot for menu's the kids can use to take orders from their guests.
I'm also thinking about lining the doors with some fabric (behind the glass). This is now the first thing you see when you enter the kitchen from the garage or laundry room and although it's organized, I'm thinking concealed and organized may be even better. Stay tuned :)
*So how about you...how do you wrangle all your kids play food or other toy collections? Do you keep toys out of the living areas or work them in? What keeps your toy collections from busting at the seams?