I feel like Captain Obvious writing this: Little ones love to mimic their parents and enjoy assisting with the house chores. In order to let their skills and independence grow, it seems best (at least to me), to offer them their own version of the adult ‘toys’ to practice and play until they are experienced – and older – enough to work with the adult versions of their toys.
We wanted for our daughter to have a kitchen set that would be interesting and economic at the same time. There are fantastic miniature kitchens in the market but they often come at a price that is – well – unfriendly. On the other hand, parents have made beautiful DIY kitchen sets, even from cardboard.
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We went the middle way and we didn’t regret it. We found the Deluxe Toy Kitchen (with 22 accessories!) when it had a sale and we bought it asap. Cost? Under thirty dollars brand new. Score! The Cute loved it! One burner sizzles, one burner bubbles, both burners light up when in use, has a ‘timer’ switch and all buttons rotate and click.
Keeps our daughter interested in her toy kitchen for longer periods. Most importantly, it keeps her away from mommy’s oven – which is in any case rarely used – while it hones her skills and imagination with pretend play.
Appliances include an oven, a refrigerator, a microwave oven, a dishwasher. The faucet rotates, the wicker baskets are removable and now house a few of her – unused – baby washcloths (to use as kitchen washcloths) and her measuring cups. Seriously, that little kitchen has it all and it’s darn sturdy, too.
The accessories we added, where all things we already had in our adult kitchen or around the house. Garbage bin, basket, cloths, measuring cups, whiskers, – all from dollar store – leftover Easter eggs (we make a lot of omelettes on that kitchen), and a handpainted wooden wall decoration of a cook that my mother sent over. There mom, see? I found a place for it!
Want more frugal ideas for your child? Check out these dollar store ideas for budget savvy toys.
What to keep in mind when you buy or make a toy kitchen:
– Make sure any accessories are age appropriate. You do not want your toddler swallowing small parts!
– Buy or make, a sturdy kitchen. The little ones will invariably lean on the kitchen and collapse it or fall.
– If you make the kitchen, remember to use safe materials. No chipping paint, no splinters, no toxic colors.
– Aim for some realism. Kids like to imitate real life (possibly because it is what they see and know), especially when younger.
– Seek plurality in the experience your toy kitchen can provide. Buttons that click and rotate, noisy burners, opening and closing doors, drawers to fill with items and so on.
– Mind the height, so your toy keeps being useful for years to come. Think of whether you want the kitchen to last for years so, your baby doesn’t overgrow it soon. When we bought the toy kitchen, our baby was at the height of the burners. A few months later, she was already overseeing the sink area and could stretch to reach the microwave oven.
– Mind the width. Depending on your space, you may need to be conscious on the width of your toy kitchen. Ours is really narrow (yet securely stable) which makes it easy to place in every room of our house. Currently resides in our nursery where it happily color coordinates.
– The dreaded assembly. In general, it is very easy to assemble a toy – any toy. However, if you do not want to fiddle with numerous small parts, take the assembly requirements into account before you buy.
– If your dream play kitchen is above your budget, be a little patient and keep an eye for discounts, coupons and seasonal offers.
Update: Crystal mentioned in the comments another factor:
– The design, colors and look. If you plan on living with the toy kitchen for a long time, it may be to your visual pleasure to pick something agreeable to your taste. Just like with the adult version of a kitchen. You may want a modern high end look or you might be into romantic older days and vintage.
The little ones won’t mind either way.
A little note: Boys love kitchen play, too. Perhaps even more so than little girls. If you are concerned about gender orientation, get your kitchen in boy-ish colors like the Ultimate Cook Kitchen in blue and grey or Cook ‘n Grow BBQ Grill and let your little guy become a legendary (and esteemed) chef like Michel Roux.
Let them have fun. 🙂