How I Redecorate Items for Reuse as Children's Furniture

Updated on January 11, 2018
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John is a retired math teacher who is involved in many activities. He writes, builds model ships, gardens, reads, and prospects for gold.

Check Out the Possibilities

This article is intended to explore a way of looking at recyclables to assess their value for re-purposing. There are plenty of discussions on line offering DIY plans for designs in the toy kitchen. Most of them are very helpful with drawings and measurements galore. But I would like to show how when you are out and around, a tossed out item sitting on the curb or poking from a dumpster can ring more bells in that creative mind of yours. I harvest parts from such things and store them all the time.

The Toy Department Hop

When your children are young and everything they see on TV or in the store seems a necessary delight, it is frequently not pleasant when you have to say no. And though saying, "No!" is not a bad thing, it rarely ends as pleasantly as you would want. Besides the emotion, a parent's wallet can start to ache.

So when your children start to have children, your grand-kids obviously have the same wild-eyed and energetic look on seeing the marvelous toys available now. An example would be some of the plastic and wooden kitchen toys in beautiful pinks and purples.

I used an old tried and true method to satisfy the wants of my grandchild during my last sojourn through the toy department. At a price tag of $100 for a toy kitchen cupboard, saying, "I'll make you one" got me off the hook. Then she said, "But I want it all pink, Poppy John." When she was small, she had trouble saying Papa John. The name has stuck. So Poppy simply had to make a pink pantry.

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Contemplating a Design

I already had an idea for making the cupboard. Earlier, I had seen a discarded drawer framework. The drawers were missing (I assumed broken). At an import/export shop I had seen something very similar with thin wood veneer or cardboard drawers. It also had plastic handles. Here was a skeleton that could be of some value. Perhaps a small unit for my wife?

But, lo and behold, it would make a perfect framework for a toy cupboard with shelves.

Stuff in the Strangest Places

The front of the unit would need a pantry-type door. Lucky finds are easy if you are thinking about the project as you make your way through the day. I wanted a framework for the door. It would span three shelves high, so using 1"x2" furring strips was my choice for support of the cardboard I would face the door with. Then, serendipity struck again. In front of a house next to a garbage can, I saw a shoe rack similar to the one below. Notice that the bamboo shelves are torn and broken. By removing the thin wood lattice, a rectangular pine frame was left. And the dimensions of it were perfect for the door at approximately 12"x36".

Reinforcing the framework of an old shoe rack which would eventually be a pantry door.
Reinforcing the framework of an old shoe rack which would eventually be a pantry door. | Source

The rest of the build was pretty easy. A 12"x12" piece of plywood to cover the hole in the top of the unit was necessary. There would also be shelves the same size for the inside. I chose to paint them black and white since I had left over paint of the same. The outside of the cupboard had to be pink. The door had brass hinges, and it and the top of the cupboard would have pictures of Strawberry Shortcake decoupaged.

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Parents Demonstrate Their Talents

Teachers today refer often to "life skills" teaching. These skills are viewed as extremely important, especially in a digital age when learning the basics can sometimes be forgotten. Part of growing up is pretending to carry out adult-like responsibilities. It is the way we learn. Toy kitchen accoutrements are an important part of learning, living, working, and playing. What's more, a parent or grandparent who goes through the process of building a toy demonstrates to a child how much he or she cares. Many of the things I made for my own children are still in their possession, and I am sure, will be handed down.

You can personalize so many kids' things with decoupage.
You can personalize so many kids' things with decoupage. | Source

Broken Is Not Worthless

A broken arm to a rocking chair is an easy fix. Replacing a bit of spindle and copying the other good arm got this chair in ship shape.

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Learn to Love on Less

Think of how many folks in our great country are retired on fixed incomes, and who have children just starting out building families. I know my kids are watching their pennies with two children. Sometimes it is just a matter of picking up an item at a bargain price and refinishing. At other times, a very small repair can make a like-new toy.

Here are some more ideas for saving money on kids' stuff.

A kindergarten chair stained, varnished, and painted - pink, of course
A kindergarten chair stained, varnished, and painted - pink, of course | Source
A simple wooden box for holding legos makes a special gift
A simple wooden box for holding legos makes a special gift | Source
A $5 Goodwill cart with re-purposed wood inlay shelves and  shooting stars on both sides
A $5 Goodwill cart with re-purposed wood inlay shelves and shooting stars on both sides | Source
A am lucky to have a scroll saw. But it isn't that hard to cut by hand a shooting star with a coping saw.
A am lucky to have a scroll saw. But it isn't that hard to cut by hand a shooting star with a coping saw. | Source
Another $5 Goodwill purchase. Inlay 1/4" plywood top, right angle brackets to secure the legs, and plenty of pink paint.
Another $5 Goodwill purchase. Inlay 1/4" plywood top, right angle brackets to secure the legs, and plenty of pink paint. | Source
A popcorn container painted and decoupaged with my favorite character, Goofy.
A popcorn container painted and decoupaged with my favorite character, Goofy. | Source
And sometimes you don't have to do anything. Christmas popcorn cans are great, especially to hold toys. The popcorn isn't bad either!
And sometimes you don't have to do anything. Christmas popcorn cans are great, especially to hold toys. The popcorn isn't bad either! | Source

As Lushhome.com puts it, "Beautiful DIY play kitchens can be created recycling old furniture pieces and using new cheap cabinets, tables and chairs, helping to design more spacious and organized rooms.

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    © 2017 John R Wilsdon

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