Children enjoy pretending to be a grown up. This is a way for them to process and understand the world around them. As a mom, a grandma and a teacher, I see the importance for toddlers to play games such as ‘cooking dinner’ and ‘kitchen’. Of course the best way to do this is with a play kitchen.
There are many types of play kitchens for sale, in all different sizes and made out of varying materials. Below, I have compiled a top 5 of play kitchens. Choose a kitchen that fits nicely within your budget, and perhaps even in your home design. If you are feeling creative; we made one ourselves from sanded wood, and it works just fine! Extra fun is that this self-made play kitchen can easily be expanded, if this is so desired. This will make play time even more interesting. You will of course need a set of play cookware as well.
After that, just sit back, and enjoy watching the imaginative playing unfold. Let the kid(s) experiment and discover on their own. You will see that in their play they imitate things they see you do in the kitchen. You will recognize habits and gestures that you yourself use in the kitchen.
These are my personal favorite play kitchens. Especially the Corner Play Kitchen looks really nice and realistic!
This is why playing with a play kitchen is so important:
Food, eating and drinking must become a part of the experience of a child, just like sleeping, cuddling, showering, playing etc. Children must have positive experiences with food in childhood in order to develop into adults who have a positive relationship with food.
You can direct the kitchen play somewhat by asking questions and joining in:
- What are we eating today?
- What kind of food do you like?
- What do you have to drink?
It is a lot of fun to play ‘restaurant’ together. You can make menus with your child, so that orders can be placed. The game can be expanded by adding a chef, a waiter and one or more customers. Paying the bill will also inevitably come up. What a rich, multifaceted game this will be. Through playing, your toddler will develop many skills:
- Vocabulary: Big/small pot, hot/cold, top/bottom. But also words such as blender or pepper etc.
- Social skills: Keep others in mind and empathize with them.
- Counting: For example 4 plates, or measuring and weighing 100 grams of flour.
- Preparatory reading: Knowing that letters and words are for reading, making a recipe with pictograms.
- Most importantly: Interacting with food and nutrition in a relaxed and positive way.
Top 5 Play Kitchens:
- This wooden play kitchen comes with wooden cutlery and plates. The wood is durable, sturdy and safe. A kitchen made out of wood has my personal preference, because of the natural material.
The following play food fits with this kitchen nicely. Lovely finish and of course also made out of wood. I love it!
This play kitchen is very complete: A countertop with a tap and a sink, a stove, an oven, a fridge, etc. Your child will love to play with his or her friends in this play kitchen.
This play kitchen is very realistically made. The buttons click, the lights turn on and the furnace makes cooking sounds. This kitchen comes with a 25- piece kitchen accessory set.
This is a fairy tale of a stove! Also available, in the same style, are a fridge and a dishwashing machine. Your toddler will love playing with these. It is all made out of high quality wood.
You will also need:
Set of play cookware
Mixer set with accessories
Apron, chef’s hat, oven mitt and the like
A Beautiful Experience
Before we reach the end of this article, I will share an experience we once had with our own children. On a rainy vacation day, our kids aged 3, 5 and 7 at the time, were done playing. The oldest had started teasing her little brother a bit, and the general atmosphere in the house was not improving. I had to intervene, but it was also almost time to start making dinner. Of course I could simply put the kids in front of the television, but I had already allowed them to watch a Disney movie that same day. In my opinion they had watched enough TV for the day.
Luckily, we still had a large box lying around that had been used to carry groceries. I took a bread knife and cut a square out of the box that was just large enough for the little tub we used for washing up to fit in there. With a marker the kids were allowed to draw their own stove burners, and with the cardboard left overs we made knobs with numbers for the stove. We cut out a door and with some empty boxes and kitchen accessories from my kitchen drawer and cupboards, the game could begin.
The oldest took charge, which the brothers accepted. They spontaneously played ‘restaurant’, when all the while I was also in the kitchen at my own stove. I was preparing broccoli, something that the youngest kids had refused to eat until now. While I was doing my own thing, I heard, observed and enjoyed the way my children were playing. The kitchen table got incorporated into their game, and under the leadership of the oldest the waiters starting setting the table with real plates. When my husband came home, he instantly joined in with the kids. He was the customer and ordered… Broccoli! I then carefully put some broccoli from my pot into the chef’s pot; our entire meal got served this way. From then on, everybody in our household enjoyed eating broccoli.
This game just came to be, spontaneously and in the moment. It wasn’t until later that I came to understand that playing in this play kitchen helped us make great strides in the development of the eating patterns of our children.