Our Water Source Set Up
We have the pitcher set up on our hand washing table. The hand washing table wasn't being used often enough because it is pretty tough for smaller kids to climb on and off of stools while carrying a pitcher of water. It makes a perfect stand because it has shelves underneath for two sizes of pitcher (one small glass and one larger plastic one) and our enamelware bowl. It also has a place to hang a towel for wiping up spills. If I didn't have a hand washing table, any small shelf such as the one shown below (which I own and use for other things) could work.
The smaller pitcher is used for filling glasses during meals and watering plants. The larger pitcher is used for filling the enamelware bowl for hand washing or soaping rags for table washing and also for refilling the crock and filling the dishwashing tub. They are also free to get a drink of water directly from the tap and our small cups are accessible in another area of the kitchen.
Our Dish Washing Set Up
This isn't the exact kitchen we have, but ours is an older model of the same brand. We took the knobs off to make the counter area easier to use. The sink is a durable plastic washing basin and while the kitchen itself is not meant to hold water it has held up well for us. After six or so years we are just starting to see some water wear around the edges.
I like the open shelves underneath for holding a basket with cutting board/child knife (what Lucie is washing in the video), and various cleaning supplies, but again just about any play kitchen with a water safe sink will work. Right now there are baskets with small washcloths, small sponges, and a pouring practical life activity. My baskets are all thrifted and don't match- please don't think yours need to either! To make small washcloths and sponges, I cut regular sponges into quarters with scissors. The same thing works for washcloths, just make sure to run a zigzag or surge around the edges because they will unravel. You can also use regular washcloths, but never underestimate the power of the smaller size in attracting children to the work!
We are still working out the best method for dumping the dirty wash water as it is hard for kids to climb carrying a big bucket of water. Some classrooms will use an open mop bucket for dirty water, but most have a low sink to take care of that problem. I can't imagine keeping a pail of dirty water out all the time with pets and toddlers so for now, dumping the dirty water is another opportunity for my older kids to assist the younger ones.
Our Art Supply Set Up
We use a three drawer cart similar to the one below for all of our art supplies. I used old formula cans to organize crayons, pencils, brushes, scissors, glue sticks, etc. These containers, plus the water color paints, stapler, and tape are on the top shelf (that the baby can't reach). The middle shelf has some toddler friendly stencils and dot markers. The bottom holds our coloring (mostly species books) and how-to-draw books. The paper and cups for water are in an easily accessible place in the kitchen that prevent the baby from crinkling all of the paper.
It is a few extra steps to gather the supplies from so many places, but having them set up this way allows them to be accessible to the children who are able to use them without being too accessible to the ones who can't! Sometimes I need to provide reminders about where things are- which is my own fault for always adjusting locations!
None of these spaces take up more than a small corner in any given room. You also don't have to start with all three areas, in fact I'd suggest you don't. Start with the water source and accessible cups and then add pitchers and bowls for washing up tables and hands. You can decide if you want to add the art and dish washing stations later.
The benefits of taking the time to set up these independence boosters pays off in child contentment. You might be surprised how little the kids play with the water, once they are able to do it correctly. Gentle redirection is generally quite effective. It only took about two days for Tomas to figure out how to line up the pitcher once he discovered how to operate the lever. In the meantime, we kept a rag near by and encouraged him to help us wipe up the spills. Most young children want to be able to to it themselves and if you tenderly but firmly show the purposes of the water, you will not run into more than a few snags.
Do you have any other questions about using or setting up a water source with young children? Leave me a note and I will get back to you. If there are enough, I will put together a post with all of your questions in one place!