Many parents have come to love pretend kitchens. These playsets come in a wide variety of sizes, materials, design and functions. They offer huge benefits to growing kids of all ages.
They are useful to engage a child positively. Especially during those times you have important things to get done at home either as a working or a full-time parent.
This post covers extensively everything you need to know about children’s cooking sets before making a buying decision. But first, let’s take a look at the best kitchen play sets in 2020.
The Best Pretend Kitchens in 2020
1. KidKraft Uptown Espresso Kitchen
One thing a kitchen playset must do and do well is to engage kids. And that is only possible if it comes with enough features since this is what will boost a child’s engagement with the toy.
One kitchenette that has been wowing parents in that regards is the KidKraft Uptown Espresso Kitchen.
It not only comes with truckloads of features and benefits, it is the nearest thing to an adult cookhouse your child can get.
The KidKraft Uptown Kitchen is so big that multiple kids can use it at once. That is a plus if you always have other kids around.
It’s thoughtful design is evident in all the good places. There are storage spaces to store accessories so they won’t litter the room. It has pegs so your child can hang her pots, pans and ladles.
It comes with enough appliances to make sure your kid imagination with pretend play always have an avenue for expression. There is a refrigerator, a freezer, a microwave, an oven and a dishwasher. There is also a chalkboard surface on the freezer for kids to write down their imaginary recipes.
It comes with a cordless phone to boost your child fascination and creativity.
What we like
We love the way it interacts with the child. The knobs click and turn. Appliances doors open and close, just like the real thing. The turntable in the oven also rotates.
KidKraft Uptown Series
The Uptown Espresso kitchen is only a part of the KidKraft Uptown series of cooking playsets. The other toys in the series are:
• KidKraft Uptown Pastel Playset
• KidKraft Uptown Natural Kitchen
All the sets have identical features. The main difference is the color. So, you can choose the one that best complements the existing decoration of wherever you want to place it. And if you love the features of these but want something bigger for your kid, then go for the KidKraft Large Kitchen, another identical but larger playset. Read more reviews of the KidKraft Uptown Espresso here.
2. KidKraft Ultimate Corner Play Kitchen Set
When shopping for children’s cooking sets, you will find a lot of playsets that will prick your interest but you won’t be able to buy due to space issues. Some standalone sets can come at such a size that will leave smaller rooms no breathing space.
To solve this problem, manufacturers build L-shape kitchens that save space by making use of corner angles in a room.
One perfect example is the KidKraft Ultimate Corner Play Kitchen Set. Don’t think space-saving is the only feature you will like about this set. It is big enough to contain many enthusiastic children playing at once.
With some toy kitchen accessories numbering to over hundred pieces, you won’t need to worry where to store these since the Ultimate Corner Playset comes with adequate storage space for your kids’ play foods and cookware sets. There are hanging pegs to even create more room for additional accessories.
What we like
- The shelving design. The available storage space were ‘racked’ to create even more storage options
- Kids will easily fall in love with the realistic lights and sound of the icemaker and stove burners.
3. Little Tikes Cook N Grow Kitchen
One issue parents often have when buying a child’s cookhouse is getting the perfect height. Since kids outgrow things fast, what you buy for your child now may be too short for him in a few months’ time.
What some parents do is to get bigger toys in the hope that the 2 to 3 year old will soon grow into the perfect height. But it can be heartbreaking seeing your kid struggling to use a toy meant for him or her.
This problem is even more pronounced if you’re not buying for a single child. Or if you’re buying a single playset for multiple kids of different heights.
That is where you will love the Little Tikes Cook N Grow toyset. It is made to grow along with your child. It has two height configurations to make sure kids of different ages can use it conveniently.
The manufacturers even include a shape-sorting game in the pot lid to help with your kid’s fine motor skills and color identification.
What we like
- The Cook N Grow toy cooking set comes with a 26-piece accessories set to steer your child in the right direction when it comes to imaginary cooking.
- The electronic cooking sounds will increase your child’s fascination with this playset.
4. Melissa & Doug Wooden Chef’s Pretend Playset With “Ice” Cube Dispenser
What wonderful way to thrill your children other than gifting them a kids’ kitchen with a working ice dispenser. The Wooden Chef’s Pretend Play Toy dispenses two ‘ice cubes’.
This wooden toy comes with all the features I have come to expect in any good cooking playset: adequate number of units, appliance doors that open and close, etc.
5. Kidkraft Retro Kitchen and Refrigerator in Pink
One thing I’ve come to love about KidKraft kitchens is their sturdiness. They’re built to survive into adulthood with your kids.
And in that aspect, the Retro Kitchen and Refrigerator doesn’t disappoint. It is a playset that can last through several kids.
Parents with limited room space will come to love its 2-piece modular design, which ensures it can be set up to fit any available space in the home.
Despite its smallish size compare to other KidKraft playsets, it is still manage to pack excellent interactive features.
The appliances open and close. The knobs turn. The sink can be removed to make for easy cleaning. Overall, the playset comes with a lovely old-school look that will captivate both parent and child.
What we like
Because all the appliances come with a working door, they can be used alternatively as a storage space for play food and cookware accessories.
There is a strong, uncomfortable smell when you open some packages for the first time. This is either due to the painting or the packaging. The smell will go away after some days. Some parents suggested that it will go away after sitting the toy in the open air for some time.
6. Step2 Grand Walk-in Kitchen and Grill
Huge! That’s likely the first thing will cross your mind the first time you see this playset. Though still at a child’s height, the Step2 Grand Walk-in Kitchen and Grill is a massive cooking set for kids.
This is more like as a 3-in-1 playset:
There is the cooking area that houses the oven, microwave, fridge, sink and storage spaces. There is the grill area which has the grill top and stove tops. There is an attached dining area to complete this set.
Everything about this toyset is big. A 103-accessory set ensures your kids get unlimited hours of fun and pretend cooking.
Major classes of food are adequately represented, with enough tableware and cookware to assist your kids prepare their favorite meals.
And it’s not all about the bulkiness (big size), this plastic toyset comes with awesome interactive features that have become industry standards.
What we like
The grill section is a great addition.
7. Step2 Espresso Bar Kids Play Kitchen
With a bed space for their toy pets, the Espresso Bar Kids playset is a toy that will capture the hearts of your little ones at first sight.
This compact plastic children’s kitchen from Step2 features electronic stove top that gives out realistic burner lights and cooking sounds.
As compact as the Espresso Bar toyset is, parents will love its storage spaces.
In addition to the attached storage bins, accessories can be stored in the oven and the large refrigerator.
It doesn’t come with pretend foods but the accompanying 21-piece accessories set includes pots, pans, spoons, cups, coffee pods, bins and salt and pepper shakers.
What we like
The attached Espresso machine. Not many toy kitchens come with this. Your kids can emulate Dad by producing their own tasty coffee-based drinks.
8. Step2 Heart Of The Home Kitchen Playset
The Heart Of The Home Playset is one of those children’s kitchens that will make your kid feel like a celebrity chef in the home.
It has a real photo frame where your kid can put their preferred photos for inspiration.
Its two column multi-storey design allows for more features to be included without taking too much floor space. On top of the refrigerator is the microwave, which houses the plate rack, cup space and a shelf.
The other columns feature the oven, the counter spacer with the stove top, a storage cupboard for cups and other wares and another storage space on top of that.
Amid the two columns is the cabin-style sink and a pet nurturing center where your kid can take care of their toy pets.
It features a dry erase board on the refrigerator where kids can note down their grocery needs and a reusable bag for grocery shopping.
What we like
The Heart Of The Home set packs more than enough storage space for its 41-piece accessory set. If you’re buying more accessories you won’t need to worry about where to store them.
9. Step2 Little Bakers Kitchen Playset
The first clearly-evident girlish playset on this list, the Little Bakers Kitchen comes with a doll chair for additional pretend play.
This means your girl’s doll can look on while she prepare her favorite dishes. This can even create additional fun for your child when she starts feeding the pretend meals to her dolls.
At 14 x 28 x 41.5 inches, this is one of the smaller playsets on this list but it still manages to pack all the features you would expect in a toy kitchen.
It has two burners. The front burner gives out realistic frying and boiling sounds when the special pan and pots are placed on it.
Other than enhancing your kid’s engagement, the refrigerator, oven and microwave also serve as extra storage space for accessories which can add up pretty fast.
What we like
How a plate rack was ingeniously built into the set. It is perfect for 2 to 3 year olds.
10. Step2 Best Chef’s Toy Kitchen Playset
If you’re looking for a compact toy cooking set, affordable but high quality that you can set up within a quarter of an hour then go for the Best Chef’s Toy Set.
Step2 produces some of the most iconic plastic toy kitchens on the globe today and the Best Chef’s playset is one of their signature products. It is a young chef’s delight. The design is something most kids will fall in love with at first sight. See the full review here.
Children’s cooking toys as learning tools
A child’s kitchen offers learning opportunity to the young ones. There are few better tool to introduce them to cooking. And it’s not about cooking alone. You can use it to introduce your kids to basic mathematical, scientific and many other elementary ideas.
Types of Children’s Kitchens
The term ‘children’s kitchen’ is often applied to wide selection of cooking toys. These can be categorized into different groups according to their sizes, functions and materials. The followings are the main types you will likely come across when searching for the best kitchens for toddlers:
Mini Toy Kitchens
These are the cooking playsets you can set up on a table in the playroom.
A mini toy kitchen set consists of miniature versions of cooking wares and tools. These portable toys come in appealing colors and toddlers easily get attracted to them.
Because they are small and contain small pieces, most come with a carrying case which makes them ideal to pack for a journey. Some mini toysets come with an added advantage in that they can be folded and used as a stepstool. A perfect example of this is the WolVol 2-in-1 Kids Kitchen Cooking Set
Standalone (Child’s Height) Toy Kitchens
These are realistic toys that resemble the adult kitchen in so many ways.
Some consist of only 2 accessories e.g. stove top and oven while some comes with a large number of toy accessories like microwave, freezer, ice maker, grill, etc. Some will even come with toy wares that are not directly related to cooking e.g. laundry machine, cellular phone, etc.
The freestanding cooking sets, though usually bigger than the portable toysets, vary in size. Some will only take up small portion of the playroom while some are so big they can’t be used in smaller rooms.
As a parent, these are the type that you will found as most engaging. A kid will spend endless time playacting with each unit, trying to re-enact what he or she saw mom doing in the real pantry.
Character-themed toy kitchens
These are toys designed based on a children’s character. The character may be from a popular children’s TV, storybook or comic series. One advantage of a character-themed child’s cooking set is that it increases engagement of the kid with the playset.
Even if your child doesn’t have interest in cooking, a play kitchen based on his or her favorite TV character will go a long way in capturing the child’s interest.
Seeing their popular characters displayed on a toy is enough for kids to become interested. To add more to this fascination, some playset will feature notable sounds from these characters to thrill children the more. Some of the common theme-based toy kitchens feature characters from Disney and Sesame Street.
Corner Play Kitchens
These are standalone toysets that have been built in such a way to fit into the corner of a room so as to save space.
Because a child’s height toy kitchen can be big enough to take up considerable room space, manufacturers came up with L-shape designs that allow these to be placed at the corner of a room. This design encourages proper space utilization in a room and frees up more space that is otherwise not available if you’re using a linear playset.
BBQ Grill Playset
While some kids’ kitchens come with pretend grill appliance, there are standalone toy BBQ/Grill units.
One advantage of these is that they can be set up outside so kids can enjoy and simulate their favorite outdoor activities. Many grill units comes with electric/gas stove burners in addition. Some grill toy sets will also feature oven and sink.
7 Factors to consider before buying a Child’s Kitchen Set
How do you measure how engaging a toy is? Its features. For your child to get maximum value, a play kitchen must come with realistic features. The doors to the appliances doors should open and close and all knobs should turn.
As I said earlier, a play kitchen without accessories won’t cut it. By the time your kid starts getting actively involved with their playset you will notice a new issue of where to store all the accessories that comes with the playset. That’s where you need a pretend kitchen that comes with adequate storage space. This ensures that the playroom, or any other room you set up the playset is tidy always.
With some big children’s kitchens taking up a third of a standard room, you will want to make sure you have enough space wherever you planned to place the toy set. You will also need to leave enough space for your child to wiggle round the playset.
So, before you click on the order button, make sure you have an idea of the space you have for the toy set and its exact dimensions. You can get the latter from the manufacturer or store’s website.
It’s not a good thing if you need to be pulling your child from under a fallen play kitchen so make sure you only go for sturdy playsets.
Putting your child’s height into consideration is a must if you’re buying a toy kitchen.
Children’s kitchens can also be typified according to the materials they are made from. Plastic toysets are the most common you will come across, followed by wooden sets. Some playsets will contain both materials and some will have parts made of stainless steel and aluminium. You can go for any of these. Read more about their pros and cons here.
4 Benefits of Children’s Kitchens
1. It helps with language development
All role-playing toys do this. Since your child is putting himself or herself in your position, trying to be like you, then he or she will need to talk like and use the same words you often use in that particular situation. With toy kitchens, this is taken a step further since they require a lot of interactions due to their size and the number of units they included.
2. It encourages creativity in children
The way a child’s mind works is somehow a mystery. Give a child a spoon and he can see it as a weapon to fight the monster he saw on TV yesterday. A cooking toy offers kids wonderful ways to explore their imaginations and creativity. Whether it is combining food types or finding a novel use for an appliance, your child will always think up something.
3. It teaches kids to be independent
Toy kitchens allow children to enjoy time-alone with themselves. Do you have a kid who will not leave your side? A cooking play set can work wonder in that kind of situation. As a pretend play toy, it allows kids to entertain themselves and rely less on the presence of an adult.
4. It helps develop basic life skills
This is a huge benefit. It is easy to think that children’s kitchens are only about cooking. But the advantages they bring to the table cut across a lot of other life skills. For example, kids understand they need to wash dishes and cookware after use. They understand that they need to keep food in the refrigerator to keep them from going bad.
Going away from basic cooking processes, pretend kitchens teach kids social skills and how to get along with other children. It teaches them how to organize stuff and plan ahead. And it teaches them self expression. While using a pretend cooking set, you will often hear a child telling his sibling and other kids how he love his food, even some things that are not related to food.
Play kitchens can instill leadership qualities in a child. When multiple kids are playing at once you will often see one of them acting as the leader of the pack by giving instructions. Even for the other kids, they’re being taught valuable lessons in listening and following instructions.
Features of Play Kitchens
The age of the child is one thing that should determine the features you should look out for. Here is a list of all the basic features and the extra features that are found on many play kitchens.
Generally, a toy kitchen will come with gas stove and one or two other appliances. The number of appliances is determined by the size of the play set. Medium size kitchenettes will have 2 to 3 appliances while the bigger playsets can feature up to 10 appliances.
The most common toy cooking appliances you will find on a child’s cookhouse are gas/electric stove top, oven, microwave, freezer, refrigerator, ice maker and dishwasher. As extra features, some play sets come with laundry machine and cordless phones.
Almost all kids’ kitchens that I have seen comes with stove tops. Even the specialized grill machines will still come with one or two stove tops. As said earlier, a toy burner may come with light and sound. That is, it can give out burning light and makes cooking and frying sounds when pots or pans are placed on it.
This is another component you will find in majority of children’s cooking sets. And like the gas stove, it can come with lights and sounds too.
Children’s kitchens are not complete without these. Toy kitchen accessories are of different types. There are cookware like pots, pans, cups, spoons, etc. A lot of cookware looks like the real things.
There are also play food accessories. There are no classes of food that you will not find its replica as a toy food. From pastries to vegetables, fruits to waffles, your kids will have access to all types of food they see their moms prepare.
Lights and Sounds
These are the features that will increase kids’ engagement. And these are features I always look for before buying a play cooking set.
The burner of a playset with lights feature will display a realistic ‘burning’ or ‘cooking’ light when a pot is placed on it. Some will also give out burning and frying sounds when pots or pans are placed on them.
Why do you want to buy a toy kitchen for your child?
I bought mine because I was looking for a toy that will positively engage my kids. I’m a very busy mom. I only have a few hours to myself in a day. If I want to get anything done I need a way to engage my two ‘hyperactive’ kids.
Television is a no-no for me since its benefits, in my opinion, do not measure up to the disadvantages. Ever since having my first child, I’ve always look for ways to get him busy when I don’t want to be disturbed. And one of those ways is using toy cookwares.
For you, it may be because you want to introduce your child to cooking. Yes, a toy cooking set is an excellent tool to ignite your child’s interest in cooking.
What’s the best location for a child’s kitchen in the home?
Is it going to be placed in your child’s playroom or bedroom? Many moms set up their kids’ kitchen alongside their own. We don’t recommend this for safety reasons.
This doesn’t apply if you’re buying a portable set since this can be placed on the floor of a room or on a table. But it’s a question you must answer if you’re going for a bigger size set.
To make up your mind on this, make a mental picture of the available space. Or you can use a ruler to get the correct measurements of the space. This will help you when you’re browsing through online catalogues of children’s kitchens. You will immediately see the ones that are too big for the planned space or the one that will require you to re-organize the holding room.
Wood or plastic, which toy kitchen material will my kid love?
This question cannot be answered affirmatively since kids are different. From my own experience, older kids, let’s say from 5 years above, take easily to a wooden play kitchen since it looks more like the real thing. 2 year olds will take to any of the material. Generally, younger tots will take to a plastic playset due to its fancy design. But that is just a personal opinion, based on experience. Kids generally will love toy cooking sets of any material.
My baby is not up to two, can I buy a play kitchen for her?
Manufacturers usually peg the recommended age for children’s kitchens at three. You will find 2 years age limits on some sets but anything younger than that is not recommended. These toys contain small pieces that are potential choking hazards to children. Even two and three year olds need to be adequately supervised while playing with one. If your child is not up to two, go for other toys that that have been proven to be OK for kids at that age. See more on the Safety section for this. With that said, I regularly come across moms who buy toy kitchens for their one year olds.
Children’s Kitchens with Lights and Sounds
Many play kitchens come with lights and sounds. These features are included to help engage kids the more. They facilitate a better role-playing activity and make a child get more involved with the toy set.
Lights and sounds features are activated when kids interact with the different units that make up the children’s kitchens. For instance, some toy microwave will make touch sounds when the keypads are pressed. Some burners will light up when pots or pans are placed on them. Knobs on some toy appliances will ‘click’ into place like it does on the real gadget.
Please note that sets with lights and sounds feature require batteries for this feature to function.
If you already have a good play cooking set without light or sound feature, it’s possible to add this on some machines. You only need to contact the manufacturer and they will let you know if you can order for a replacement part with light or sound feature.
Children’s Play Kitchens for Older Kids
Some parents do think that children’s kitchens are meant for toddlers and kids that are below six years. That is wrong. There are toy kitchens for older children. You will even get for your kids who are around 12 years. You only need to research well. Your older children need extra tall kitchens. A cooking set designed for a 3 year old will not do for a 7 or 10 year old. You need to look for large toysets for the older kids so they can get the same benefits as the younger children.
Here, I can say you now have all the support you need to buy the best toy kitchens for your kids. The benefits a kid gets from using a toy cooking set are not quantifiable. And that is the reason I created this guide. Even if you’re limited for money, you will still find a perfect low-cost kitchen playset for your child.