Why choose a pretend play kitchen?
From all of the things you can buy for your favorite girl or boy, why a play kitchen?
First and foremost, it creates interactive play. It encourages imagination. It allows your child to role play and cook like Mom or Dad. This is a great way to play with your child, and a great way for your child to play with friends. And if you choose, you can turn kitchen play into a learning opportunity. Play food can be used to teach about different foods and nutrition. Also social skills can be practiced with serving food and play eating together. What sort of play kitchen do you want? Children's kitchens range from very small toy kitchens to very large and feature full. You can find a single unit kids kitchen, which include many appliances, to multi-piece kitchen play sets with individual appliances. Choosing a play kitchen set depends on the age of the child, your budget and your setting. It also depends on your personal philosophy. Where is that play kitchen made? Is it eco-friendly and made with sustainable manufacturing and fair business practices.
What kinds of play kitchens are available?
Single Unit Kitchens - These play kitchens include many appliances such as a stove, oven, microwave and sink in one unit. These units have a "front" and "back", so that they can be placed against a wall. Typically this style of toy kitchen is either a "assembly-required" wooden kitchen or it is made from molded plastic. A typical large, self-assemble wooden kitchen measures about four feet long, four feet tall, and about two feet deep.
Island Play Kitchen - These are stand-alone pretend kitchens. Children can play on all sides of these kitchens. Island play kitchens also feature various combinations of sink, stove, ovens and microwaves. Toddler kitchens are typically this style.
Complete Kitchen Play Sets - We are talking about a multi-appliance set here. There are separate toy stoves, toy refrigerators, toy microwaves, toy sinks, and toy dishwashers.
Table Top Toy Kitchens - These are small, typically "two burner" stoves, that are designed with portability in mind. These pretend kitchens can be moved from room to room and be used on a table, shelf or even the floor.
Natural wooden kitchens - These kitchens are made from solid wood and not particle board. Many of the "assembly-required" are made from laminated particle board and are still considered wood by the manufacturer. The natural wooden kitchens are typically made from spruce, pine or cedar. Many of these designs are more abstract in nature. That is they do not offer realistic detail; however, there is no mistaking that these are play kitchens. They usually combine a sink and stove and have moving parts. It is just that the details are left to the child's imagination.
Is my child old enough?
In a word, yes. Well, let's qualify that. Some kitchens also have small parts that may come off and pose a choking hazard for a younger child, so your child should be at least three years old. With a small child it is tempting to get a very small kitchen play set. However, a busy preschooler can quickly out grow the small toy kitchen. On the other hand, if you get a large play kitchen, it might overwhelm a younger toddler. You have to know your child, but you want to plan for growth.
A smaller child may not be able to reach the upper appliances on a large single unit play kitchen. On other units, the stove top or counter height may be too tall for the child to effectively play with the toy kitchen unit. Your choices are three-fold: buy a smaller kids kitchen and patiently wait until your child grows taller. Or, get a little step stool or bench, just like the one you use in their bathroom, to help the child reach everywhere in their kitchen.
Remember, children play with their kitchens for many years, so you probably want to buy a play kitchen as soon as you can and plan for growth.
From what material should the toy kitchen be made?
Wooden play kitchens are sturdy, durable and last for many years. They are less likely to crack, fade or warp as they age. However, assembly may be a challenge if it is a flat-packed unit. Wood makes a sturdy childrens kitchen, but sturdy means heavier and harder to move.
Plastic play kitchens are typically smaller and lighter than their wooden counterparts. They are easier to clean too. However, if the plastic kids kitchen is designed as a wall unit, as opposed to a free standing unit, it could be a tip-over hazard. And just because it is made from plastic, it does not necessarily mean it is cheaper. Nice plastic full featured children's kitchens may be more expensive than many nice wooden play kitchens.
Eco-friendly? Some of the wooden play kitchen manufacturers use sustainable harvesting and use no finish, natural finishes, or low V.O.C water based finishes.
Where are you going to put the play kitchen in your home?
A lot of homes do not have the area to accommodate a large toy kitchen or multi-unit kitchen play set. If you have a play room, multi-unit pretend kitchen set may work for you. If you have the wall space, then a combination single-unit kids kitchen will work. Otherwise consider a play kitchen island or table top toy kitchen.
Once you have decided where the kids kitchen will go, you need to look at the decor of the room. Kitchens come in all sorts of colors, shapes, and patterns, so you should be able to find something that matches or least does not clash with the room.
How long are you going to keep the kitchen?
If your play kitchen is going to hang around for a year or two and then head off to a new home, there's probably no need for a large, heavy, elaborate kitchen. On the other hand, if you intend to keep the kitchen for five or six years or more, you should get a sturdy wooden one that isn't going to fade or crack with time. If the kitchen is to be passed down through a progression of children and perhaps generations of children, a handcrafted, heirloom quality wooden kitchen would fit the bill. Where are you going to put the all the play kitchen accessories? Play kitchens beget play kitchen accessories. There are all sorts of play kitchen toys: pots and pans, small appliances, ovenware, aprons, kitchen towels, utensils, and pretend play food. Some play kitchen sets have more storage than other kitchen play sets. You may want to take that into consideration.