Cooking and cleaning dishes might not be your idea of a good time, but think back to your preschool days when play kitchens were even a magical thing to behold. If your little one’s at that stage where they’re constantly asking to mix batter, lick the spoon, bread the chicken and sprinkle on the cheese, chances are they’re in awe of what goes down in this area of the house, too. So whether you have a little baker or top chef on your hands, they could probably use a play kitchen — if for no other reason than to get them out of your own.
Out of the many toys and playsets you can purchase for your child, play kitchens are an especially brilliant investment because they grow with your child. Think about it: Toddlers love to play with fake food and make noise (after all, banging pots and pans is one of their favorite pastimes), but as they get older and their imaginations expand, so will the ways in which they play. Play kitchens are also great for both solo and group play, which will strengthen your child’s social cues and understanding of how to share and delegate work.
But above all else, these play kitchens give your little one a place to explore and be creative. Between identifying utensils, food groups and learning organizational skills, children play and pick up on real-life skills. Who knows, maybe they’ll even start applying their culinary expertise in your kitchen — with parental supervision, of course.
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1. KidKraft Ultimate Corner Play Kitchen
KidKraft’s play kitchen is honestly the setup of our dreams so sorry in advance if you start to feel a little envious of your child’s plastic work space. We aren’t exaggerating when we say that the Ultimate Corner Play Kitchen delivers on the details. Available in a white or espresso finish, the kitchen includes a granite-style countertop. Its appliances include a refrigerator, freezer, microwave, oven and dishwasher — all with doors that open and close.
The stove-top burners and ice makers aren’t for show, either: The knobs click and turn, while both pretend appliances light up and make sounds. Oh, and just in case you have a multitasker on your hands, the kitchen also includes a washing machine so they can scramble eggs while simultaneously popping in a load of laundry.
2. Step2 Fun With Friends Kitchen
The Step2 Fun With Friends play kitchen looks like it belongs in a child’s playroom compared to more sophisticated models featuring very adult-like aesthetics. Available in blue, brown and pink colorways, the set comes fully equipped with a ton of accessories including storage bins, place settings and utensils, condiment bottles, a colander, a pot and pan set with lids, and so much more in order to further inspire your little one’s imagination.
Kids can brew up a cup of joe in the instant coffee pot or whip something up over the stove top that makes bubbling and sizzling noises as a special effect. Clean up is also simple, too, with plenty of storage space in bins, the fridge, on shelves and hooks for hanging cups.
3. Hape Gourmet Play Kitchen
Play kitchens come in all shapes and sizes, so if you don’t have the room for a massive set, no worries. The Hape Gourmet Play Kitchen is perfect for small spaces and kids who are only just starting to take an interest in cooking. Though definitely a down-size from other models out there, this wooden kitchen still comes fully stocked with all of your child’s cooking essentials such as a stove, sink, oven with window and clicking knobs, cabinets for storage, and even a spice shelf (fancy!). Plus, unlike other plastic models, Hape’s play kitchen was constructed from durable wood, child safe materials and non-toxic water-based paint, so not only is it kid-friendly, it’s also long-lasting.
4. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Servin’ Up Fun Food Truck
There are stationary kitchen sets and then there are meals on wheels. Fisher-Price’s food truck is a kind of play kitchen that takes your child’s culinary skills to the streets (or playroom, living room, sidewalk, etc.). It’s half kitchen, half automobile that features an interactive kitchen and car dashboard.
Once you’ve set up shop, have your little entrepreneur ring up your order with a “magical” cash register that reads all four card menus included in the set and features a music button for a playlist of songs and more. With a light-up grill, working sink and service area, they can whip up anything on the pre-made menu, including tacos, pizza, burgers, cookies and smoothies (for the health-conscious customers). When the work day is through, they can organize the recycling and be on their way.
5. Melissa & Doug Wooden Chef’s Kitchen
The Melissa & Doug play kitchen is a dream for kids and parents alike. Super easy to assemble and available in three color patterns — charcoal, cloud and pink — this wooden play set could easily pass for a model kitchen. It features all the essential appliances of a real kitchen, including an oven, stove, microwave, sink, refrigerator with a working ice dispenser, freezer and plenty of storage space (so there’s no excuse for not cleaning up). And just in case that lineup doesn’t sound fancy enough, Melissa & Doug threw in a few minor details that set this play kitchen apart from the rest in a big way: the microwave plate actually spins, dials turn, hooks move and a grocery list hangs beside the fridge.