The kitchen is a mysterious and fascinating space for kids.

It is here that kids learn very important life skills, such as doing the dishes and preparing meals.

However, for safety purposes, before we allow our lovely tots into the real kitchen, they must first become accustomed to play kitchens and play food sets.

Both items satisfy kids’ desire to prepare foods, although they’re different in so many ways.

So, as a parent you’re wondering, “Do I buy a play kitchen or a play food set?”

Well, let’s do this assessment together.

By Lilian.

Are Play Kitchens Worth it?

Different people have different answers to this question. Some think it’s completely worth it, others think it’s not really worth it.

For a start, I checked the price of play kitchens on Amazon and other online stores.

I realized that the average price is approximately $150, although the high quality wooden play kitchens cost in excess of $500. That’s quite expensive.

I then checked among people that have purchased play kitchens for their kids.

Lovevery wrote that none of her four kids was fascinated by the play kitchen.

A significant percentage feel that it’s not worth the premium while others felt the play kitchen was a good purchase.

On the other hand, the Kavanaugh Report in Montessori Parenting mentions that play kitchens are unnecessary, that they only serve as a distraction from the fundamental activities children have a drive to engage in the real kitchen.

Having done my analysis, and from my own experience buying my son a play kitchen (yes, play kitchens are gender neutral too), I also don’t think it’s worth investing in a play kitchen, especially if you’re on a tight budget or if you’re tight on space.

I realized that most kids get over the moon the first day or two, but thereafter literally forget about the play kitchen’s existence and move into the real kitchen.

I’d rather the much cheaper, less bulky option of a play food set.

However, this does not mean that play kitchens should be written off.

Absolutely NO.

They confer so many benefits for kids as described below.

Benefits of Play Kitchens for Kids

Play kitchens provide a range of benefits for kids including:

They Develop Language and Communication Skills

As kids pretend to play with the toy kitchen, they learn certain vocabularies such as “bake”, “marinate”, “stir”, etc.

They also learn the names of different fruits and vegetables.

Play Kitchens Evoke Kids’ Imagination and Creativity

Kids engage in role playing as they play with the toy kitchen. They create their own imaginary recipes, try them out and serve them.

This promotes their little brains’ imagination and creativity abilities.

It Boosts their Confidence and Independence

When kids play with the toy kitchen, they learn to do stuff such as wiping the kitchen table clean or putting away utensils after meals.

Well, this is a great boost to their self-esteem.

It gives them a dose of confidence in being independent, just like dad/mom.

Play Kitchen or Play Food Set: Which One is Better?

A play food set is more preferable than a play kitchen based on the space and price parameters.

While a play kitchen occupies at least a corner of your child’s playroom, a play food set can easily fit in one drawer of your little one’s toy chest drawer.

Play food sets are also far much cheaper than play kitchens.

While kitchen sets can go even over $600, with as low as $50, you’re sure to find a good quality play food set with more than 70 pieces for your lovely tot.

So, play food sets are definitely more cost and space effective and have greater variety than play kitchens.

Now, you’re wondering, “Do I get a plastic or wooden play food set?”

There’s no denying.

I think you should get a wooden one.

Let me tell you why.

Why Should I Get a Wooden Play Food Set?

There are several reasons you should buy a wooden play food set as opposed to a plastic one.

They’re More Durable

Wooden play foods can last for generations, especially those made from hardwood.

They don’t shatter as easily as plastic play foods.

Even when your little one accidentally steps over them, unlike the plastic ones which will most likely break, the wooden play foods will show no noticeable change.

They’re More Beautiful

Wooden play foods, just like other wooden toys, have some timeless beauty.

You can actually just place some unique pieces in your living room to add on the décor.

They’re Safer for Kids and the Environment

The risk of toxicity with wooden and plastic toys is different.

Wooden play foods are less toxic; even the ones that have been painted, the paint is most likely non-toxic.

In terms of the environment, wood is also sustainable while plastic is not.

So, if you’re an environmental conservation enthusiast, wooden play foods should definitely be a priority.

Let us now explore a few realistic play foods.

Examples of Realistic Play Foods

You’ll find very many realistic play foods in almost every toy store.

There are very realistic pizzas, shrimps, steak, cupcakes, ice cream, sliced lime, eggs, burgers, birthday cakes, French fries and barbeque play foods.

There are also vegetables such as mushrooms, cabbages, eggplants, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and pepper.

Finally, before you purchase the play foods, you need to consider a few factors as outlined below.

Factors to Consider when Buying Toy Foods

Consider the Age-appropriateness Factor

Before you get any toy food, ensure the foods are age-appropriate.

Most play foods are designed for kids aged at least 3 years. It’s not advisable to get play foods for younger kids.

If you do, let them play under adult supervision.

How about Durability?

This is where the material of the play foods comes in.

Wooden play foods are more durable (and more physically appealing) than plastic play foods.

Consider your Child’s Safety

It’s important to ensure your lovely tot knows that play food items such as forks and knives, pots, plates and kettles are all pretend. Keep them away from real utensils.

What’s more, the play food may look so real that your little one wants to taste it.

If it’s a smaller size, the risk of choking is definitely high.

So, large realistic play foods are generally safer than smaller play foods.

What do you think about play kitchens vs play food sets?

Photo by Mike.

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