Children as young as three years old like to engage in pretend play including cooking meals and preparing snacks, just as their parents like to do these tasks at home. Parents, in turn, should encourage their children in pretend play because of the wide range of physical, mental, and social benefits that come with it.
These benefits include the development of fine motor skills, problem-solving and decision-making skills, and getting along well with others.
Furthermore, getting children the best play kitchens and letting them play with these toys also introduces them to the crucial concepts of household chores, specifically in kitchen-related tasks. Just be sure to supervise them during their first try so that they stick to the safe toys included in the play kitchens instead of getting real knives from the kitchen and using the stove, among other dangerous activities.
Play kitchens come in a wide range of sizes, styles, and features, so choosing the best one can become overwhelming for parents and their children. Parents should consider several factors including their budget, as well as the characteristics of the children for whom these play kitchens are being purchased.
Choice between wooden and plastic materials
Play kitchens come in two main materials with each one having its own pros and cons. First, plastic play kitchens are easy to clean with a soap-and-water mix coupled with a clean rag, while their lightweight design makes them more portable than their wooden counterparts.
These are also safe for children in the sense that these don’t have splinters, among other pointy ends, while their replacements pieces are usually affordable.
But plastic play kitchens aren’t exactly heirloom materials because these fade and crack over time. These also feel and look less like wooden kitchens.
Second, wooden play kitchens have a more realistic look and feel, especially when there are other components like Formica countertops. These are also more durable than plastic play kitchens provided that these are properly cared for, such as regular wiping down and varnishing of surfaces.
But these play kitchens can have splinters that may cause slight injury to children. These are also heavier thus the need to anchor them to either the wall or the floor, not to mention that these are more challenging to assemble.
Choose by considering the users’ gender and age
Fortunately, manufacturers now offer play kitchens for girls and boys as well as gender-neutral play kitchens. Parents can choose from a wide range of colors from pinks and reds to greens and blues, so addressing their children’s color preferences isn’t an issue.
Parents should also choose based on the children’s age. Toddlers will have different needs in a play kitchen than preschoolers and older children in elementary school, such as when the former will appreciate basic utensils and the latter will want the whole nine yards.
Many manufacturers also offer play kitchen accessories in addition to the basic utensils that come with each unit. These accessories can include additional pots, pans, and other cooking utensils as well as aprons, grocery items, and toy shopping carts.
The grocery items can range from miniature fruits and vegetables to dairy products, meats and dry goods. There are even gadgets like microwave ovens and refrigerators, if the budget allows for them.
5 Best Play Kitchens
Based on personal observations and consumer reviews, here are the best play kitchens available today. Keep in mind that you, the parent, have to choose based on the aforementioned factors while also considering your budget.
You will find that all five of these play kitchens are reasonably priced, thanks to the right balance between their features and cost.
KidKraft Ultimate Corner Play Kitchen with Lights & Sounds, Brown/White
The KidKraft brand is known among parents as one of the most reliable toy manufacturers, and the Ultimate Corner Play Kitchen is among its best products.
- Made of composite wood materials
The KidKraft unit is made from relatively sturdy composite wood materials with a dark wood motif. The material coupled with the peek-a-boo windows and speckled granite-style countertop add to its realistic look and feel, as well as almost blend in with a modern home’s décor.
The surfaces are also easy to clean with a clean cloth, as well as easy to repaint when necessary after a few years of use.
This comes unassembled, thus assembly is necessary. Since there’s a step-by-step instruction manual with photos, the process is easier than expected, although a little elbow grease is a must.
It’s best to place it in a permanent place, perhaps anchored to the wall or floor, because of its slightly heavier than plastic weight.
- Working components
There are plenty 0f interactive features that will keep children entertained for a few hours so parents can accomplish other tasks. These include light-up burners with sounds; a battery-powered ice maker that produces realistic noises; and a large sink with working taps (i.e., can be turned on and off).
The freezer, microwave, oven, refrigerator and dishwasher doors even have working doors (i.e., open and close) and realistic interfaces, as well as additional storage spaces within the refrigerator and on the oven’s top shelves.
- Sufficient storage options
The unit comes with functional shelves that can actually be used to store more plates, pots and pans, which can be purchased separately from the KidKraft’s Deluxe Cookware collection. There are even storage options below the sink, just as in many real-life kitchens .
- Sufficient size for multiple players
The play kitchen is compact enough to fit into an average-sized playroom or bedroom, yet large enough to accommodate 2-3 players at one time. This also has an angled design so that it can fit into a corner, a boon in modest spaces.
- Durable wooden play kitchen
- Attractive design suitable for all genders
- With interactive features from working doors to lights and sounds
- With an attached washing machine area
- With sufficient storage space
- Encourages kids to engage in imaginative play
- Assembly can be challenging, according to a few buyers
- No actual dial on the washer
The KidKraft play kitchen will last for many years to come, even becoming an heirloom piece in its own right with proper care. The gender-friendly design allows boys and girls to play together as a team.
Melissa & Doug Chef’s Kitchen Pretend Play Set – Charcoal
The Melissa & Doug products are well-loved by parents and children because of their long-term durability, educational features, and beautiful designs.
- 3 years and up
The Melissa & Doug Chef’s Kitchen is suitable for kids three years old and up. Parents will find that it’s relatively easy to assemble, especially with its detailed and illustrated instructions coupled with the single type of screw used on all the parts. Be sure to stop turning the screws when these are already flush lest these become stripped.
Once assembled, the unit measures 43.25″ x 39″ x 15.5″ so it’s quite compact in terms of its footprint yet still offers a sufficiently large space for toddlers to play with. This can be placed flush against a wall or in the middle of a room, whether it’s the kids’ playroom or bedroom.
- Comes with play appliances
The pretend kitchen includes an oven with a stove, a microwave, and a refrigerator with a freezer and an ice dispenser with two pretend ice cubes. Most of these toy appliances have interactive features for more engaging play, such as dials that turn on the stove and oven, removable burner grates, and spinning microwave plate.
Kids will definitely feel like they are actually playing with the real thing while the parents have peace of mind that they aren’t in any danger while at play.
The refrigerator and freezer also have separate doors that open and close, as well as provide ample storage space for pretend food items. The doors are easy to open and close, too, thanks to the strong latches and smooth movements. There are also hooks for hanging pots and pans, just as in a real kitchen.
The moving sink faucet encourages pretend washing of food, utensils and hands. Kids love the grocery checklist, which can be used multiple times by using a pencil to write on it.
- Compact design that still offers plenty of space for young children to play
- Easier to assemble
- Interactive features on the pretend appliances
- Unisex color
- Great tool for letting kids learn small tasks in the kitchen
- Bit loose faucet in the knob and neck
This pretend kitchen makes it so easy for boys and girls to play together, thanks to the unisex design, sufficient space, and plenty of engaging accessories and their features. Children as young as three years old can play with it so letting them explore their kitchen skills at a young age in a safe manner is possible.
Step2 Best Chef’s Kitchen Set, Blue/Black/Brown
Toddlers love the Step2 Best Chef’s Kitchen because it provides them with a few hours of engaging play, either on their own or with their playmates, every day.
- Engaging interactive features
Like most modern play kitchens, this unit has several interactive features that promote more imaginative play. The play stove top and oven have clicking knobs, which mimic the knobs in a real-life cooking appliance, but without the possibly dangerous fire. The knobs are also easy to turn even by little hands with less developed motor skills.
The stove burner also features attractive lights and fun sounds when the burners are “turned on” by using the clicking knobs. Be sure to buy two AA-sized batteries for these features to work; batteries not included in the package.
The pretend oven and refrigerator also have their separate doors so kids can place food for cooking or storing, respectively. The set already comes with 25 pieces of accessories from the food items to the cooking utensils; additional accessories can be purchased separately from the Step2 play kitchen collection.
- Storage space in many areas
The entire unit offers ample storage space, too, from the oven and refrigerator to the shelves, hooks and even a recycle bin. The hooks are cute, too, as well as being functional in hanging pots, pans and other cooking utensils.
This also has a pass-through window so that kids can pretend that they are working in a café as chefs. Parents can also participate in the kids’ game by pretending to be customers getting their orders via the pass-through window.
- Compact dimensions
The kitchen play set is smaller than many of the units mentioned here. This is considered an advantage by parents who struggle with space issues in their home, especially for their kids’ play areas.
- Compact footprint
- Comes with 25 accessories
- With a few interactive features suitable for toddlers
- Can be expanded with more play kitchen accessories like food items from the Step2 collection
- Easy to assemble
- Encourages children to engage in imaginative play
- More electronic features will be an improvement
- Minor scratches, according to a couple of buyers
The Step2 Best Chef’s Kitchen is a basic unit but therein also lies its beauty. Younger children will almost immediately take to it because are fewer complicated features to explore but the available features are within their existing skills.
Parents can add more accessories, such as play food items, as the children grow older and need more toys for imaginative play.
Little Tikes Ultimate Cook Kitchen
The Little Tikes brand is among the giants in the children’s toys, clothes and accessories industry for good reasons. The products are usually made of durable materials and made with durability, practicality and beauty in mind. The Little Tikes Ultimate Cook Kitchen passes the company’s and consumers’ standards along these lines.
- Comes with 30 accessories
Parents who buy the Little Tikes play kitchen don’t have to buy more accessories – at least, not while the kids are still content with their old ones – so it’s essentially an assemble-and-play unit.
Aside from the play hot dog and hamburger, which are the only food items in the package, there are also plates, cups, mugs, forks, spoons, knives, pot with lid, and frying pan, among others. There’s even a play cell phone because budding chefs need them, too.
- Assembly required
This can be assembled in 30-60 minutes depending on your DIY skills. Eye protection and a screwdriver are necessary for the assembly, although many parents recommend using a power drill for faster work.
The assembly instructions are fairly detailed although it may take a second read-through just to be sure that every step has been understood well.
- Modern design
The white, gray and blue color scheme has two benefits: first, it allows both boys and girls to play with it (i.e., unisex colors); and second, it provides the play set a modern look that mimics contemporary kitchens.
The speckled countertop adds to its beautifully modern look, too, while the pass-through window adds a whimsical touch to the entire design.
In keeping with its modern design, the play kitchen also offers plenty of storage space in the multiple cabinets, shelves, and baskets. There are even two pegs for added storage of cooking utensils.
Just as in a modern kitchen, there are also pretend appliances like a refrigerator, microwave oven, and standard oven. These have doors that can also be opened and closed.
The stove top even makes electronic sounds while the cappuccino maker allows kids to mimic their parents’ coffee-loving lifestyle.
- Gender-neutral design
- Modern play appliances with working doors
- Plenty of storage
- Electronic cooking sounds
- Very few food accessories so additional purchases may be necessary
The Little Tikes play kitchen has a stylish design coupled with sturdy materials on both the unit itself and on the play accessories. This will definitely work with both boys and girls who are showing signs of interest in kitchen tasks.
Giantex Wood Kitchen Toy Kids Cooking Pretend Play Set Toddler Wooden Playset Red
The enduring popularity of wood play kitchens isn’t surprising considering the durability of the likes of the Giantex unit. While its red color may be more associated with toys for girls, it’s also becoming more popular for boys’ toys so this play kitchen is a great toy for both genders.
- Made of wood
The entire play kitchen is made of MDF and pinewood, a material chosen because of its proven durability and reliability even after several years of normal play by kids.
The play kitchen has a strong, sturdy and solid feel to it, thanks to the use of the wood material and the application of quality construction methods.
But even when it’s made of wood, it isn’t as heavy as you may think it is. This can still be transferred between rooms in a relatively easy manner although we recommend bolting it in place for safety purposes.
Once assembled, it has a compact footprint (23.6 x 12.9 x 36.6 inches).
- With plenty of engaging features for kids
The best play kitchens provide kids with plenty of stimulation via interactive features, and the Giantex wood play kitchen delivers on it too.
The sink can be removed for easy cleanup after the kids made a mess during their playtime sessions, which will also teach them about cleaning up after themselves. The faucet knobs on the sink cannot be turned since these are just wood blocks.
There are also play appliances, such as the cook up and microwave oven. The knobs for the stove can be turned on and off complete with the twisting motion and clicking sound, which mimics real-life stoves without the actual fire.
The doors actually open and close, too, although the wall clock isn’t a functional one, which is okay since kids may not be as interested anyway.
There are also storage shelves for storing play accessories. Children may want more play items so these shelves will come in handy.
- Comes with assembly instructions so it’s easy to assemble
- Made of strong and sturdy wood
- Stylish design
- With interactive and engaging features
- Promotes imaginative play among toddlers
- The oven door is flimsier than expected, according to a couple of buyers
The Giantex Wood Kitchen Toy may only be suitable for toddlers because of its compact size but it’s a great start for teaching them about kitchen tasks and safety, as well as for letting them engage in creative play.
Each of these five play kitchen sets are the best in terms of providing parents with great value for their money and children with plenty of opportunities for creative play in their own make-believe kitchens. The final choice will largely boil down to their budget as well as their children’s preferences for colors, styles and accessories.
No matter the choice, nonetheless, every parent has the responsibility of assembling the unit, placing it in a safe area, and checking on their kids from time to time to ensure their safety.
Indeed, play kitchen sets are designed to teach young children as young as three years old about the basic roles and responsibilities of each person in the kitchen, as well as in playing well with others.
During their playtime sessions, they will learn about the give-and-take interactions essential in keeping good personal relationships, as well as about turning knobs, opening and closing doors, and even washing of things.