There’s no better way to inspire your little chef than with a pretend kitchen set of his/her own. It’s not only a great way to keep a child entertained, but it encourages a love for cooking or baking. Play kitchens are a great way to learn how to use kitchen tools, practice fine motor skills, create and execute plans, serve others, and be creative. But, which play kitchens are the best at creating that environment for learning? We’ve put together a list of the top 7 toddler play kitchens so that you can find the best one to fit your mini-me. Soon your child will be hard at work in his/her kitchen, whipping up something for you to ‘try’ through imaginative, skill-building play. Below are our best picks.
Best Play Kitchens for Toddlers
(Most modern design — $$$)
Why it’s great: When you see this adorable, chic play kitchen, you’ll wish they could remodel your kitchen to match it! Not only is it eye-catching, but it’s also durable, all wooden, and has up-to-date appliances; even an ice dispenser! The set comes with pretend ice cubes to make it the main attraction for little kids. It’s so realistic that the microwave plate even spins! This playset can keep the little ones entertained for quite some time, sparking imagination and creativity as they set the stage for their future days as cooks in the kitchen. If you’re looking for a complete kitchen set for your young chef, this one has all the appliances built into one set, and a charcoal design with a pretty backsplash so that it will match most adult home décor.
Keep in mind: It comes packed with Styrofoam and fiberglass particles, so it’s a good idea to vacuum the area after assembly to get any stray pieces up before playtime.
Good for: Kids 3 and up who are very interested in how appliances in the kitchen work. The realistic appliances, moveable dials, and built-in ice dispensers are intriguing to young minds.
(Best for tight spaces — $$)
Why it’s great: This is a classic kitchen playset that makes playtime fun! The brightly-colored accents are eye-catching and engaging for the little ones. You can choose two themed colors: white or green. One of the fun features is the timer that makes the microwave seem like something is really getting heated up. And if your little chef gets adventurous and uses the sink for some real food, don’t worry…the sink pops out of the playset for easy clean-up. If your kiddo wants to have a lot of play food accessories or pots and pans, there is plenty of storage space for all of those goodies. Let their imaginations cut loose as they get immersed in playtime fun!
Keep in mind: Assembling this can be a bit of a bear if you’re not very handy. It really helps to have two adults to put it together and a patient child!
Good for: Bakers and chefs older than 3 years old, who look forward to the real-life motions of working in their own kitchen!
(Most tech savvy — $)
Why it’s great: Believe it or not, your children want to snap and share their kitchen creations as much as you do! Now they can borrow your smartphone and place it in the build-in smartphone holder to do just that. One of the best features is that this playset has a grow-with-me mode so that as your child grows, you can adjust the height of the playset to match their needs. Does your budding chef need some recipe inspiration? No worries, this Little Tikes set comes with three recipes to get them started. Also included are over 40 pieces of food and accessories for making their dream recipes. You can also purchase food accessory packs that go along with the playset, so the children are ready to go in a ‘snap’!
Keep in mind: This play kitchen does not come with a way to secure it to the wall, so you may want to affix it with a safety strap yourself.
Good for: If you plan to keep this kitchen for a while as your child grows (all too quickly, of course), this is a good investment, because the height settings can be adjusted.
(Most variety of colors — $$)
Why it’s great: Take innovation and performance to the next level with this cute play kitchen that has the farmhouse sink you always wanted. Made from sturdy, high-quality wood, this playset boasts brass handles for that contemporary kitchen feel. Little ones will have a blast creating pretend cuisine for friends and family. The gas switch is rotatable, there’s a water cooler on the door and includes ‘ice’ for the ice maker, and the stove knobs make clicking noises to sound authentic. Everything to make your child’s time in the kitchen seem as realistic as possible! If you have a determined child who knows what they want, they may be happy to find out they get a choice of 6 colors to choose from when they (you) order this kitchen. Also, just like the other Teamson kitchen we’ve mentioned, the sink comes out for easy clean-up. Your little one will love playing with the many features this playset has to offer, and imagine they are working in a real live kitchen!
Keep in mind: It will be much easier to put this together if you have a drill. Save yourself some time by getting that ready ahead of time!
Good for: If you want to have your child help you wash some actual vegetables and fruit for you, the pop-out play sink is easy to clean.
(Most simplistic design — $$)
Why it’s great: If you’re wanting something small to add to a current play kitchen or use in a small space, this cabinet-style refrigerator and top-mounted freezer will bring some fun to the playroom. The pretend ice dispenser releases wooden ice cubes, which inspires young minds to make many cool beverages for friends and family. The fridge can hold many play food items, which are sold separately so that you have the freedom to choose which products are the most fun for your child. This kitchen will exercise your child’s imagination and thinking skills in a fun and playful way.
Keep in mind: This product’s main feature is the pretend ice maker. It comes with a set of pretend ice cubes. You may want to buy additional ice cubes to have on hand in case any get misplaced.
Good for: Young children who aren’t ready for the whole kitchen yet, and want to focus on opening/closing the fridge doors, as well as making, pretend drinks with the fun wooden ice cubes.
(Best space for multiple chefs — $$)
Why it’s great: Do you like your morning coffee with cream and sugar? Just order from your mini-me, and he/she can whip up your fave drink in the pretend single-serve coffee maker (mug included!). Another great feature of this play kitchen is the realistic lights and sounds, which do require AA batteries but is worth it for the special effects. The fun doesn’t stop there; the kiddos can use the swivel faucet to ‘wash’ the dishes and then use the molded-in dish rack to keep things organized. Utensils can be stored from the provided hooks, which add to the eye-catching appeal. I love that this playset has easily enough room for two chefs to play at once, so there are not too many cooks in the kitchen! Pretend kitchen role play encourages kids to problem solve and be creative; they will spend hours doing just that with this Step 2 kitchenette.
Keep in mind: The holes aren’t pre-drilled, so that can be a challenge. Plugin your cordless drill to charge (if you have one), and you will save yourself some time that way. Otherwise, a Philips screwdriver will work, but it will take a while to assemble.
Good for: Pet lovers, since it comes with a built-in pretend dog/cat water and food bowl area.
(Most playful design — $)
Why it’s great: With this colorful playset, very young children can plant, pick, prepare and serve pretend food, creating their own nutritious farm-to-table meals. There are two sides to this playset, featuring a home garden on one side and a play kitchen on the other. Loaded with lights, music, and colorful play food, this playset is meant to engage young minds for hours on end. The Smart Stages learning content teaches letters, counting, colors, shapes, healthful eating, and more. It’s a triple win: the mini chefs/gardeners learn, engage, and imagine as they play. I think it’s a great bonus that the children get to see the stages of the food being grown, then cooked, and finally eaten, so that they understand the whole process of how a garden works. After they’ve gathered the ingredients, the children can mix smoothies in the blender, and flip through the recipe book if they are looking for inspiration. With 30+ play food and accessories included, there will be plenty to do!
Keep in mind: As highly interactive as this play kitchen is, it’s really geared for the smallest of small….about 18 months to 3 years old. Children in the 2-year-old range would be perfect for this.
Good for: very young children who want to have a farm-to-table kitchen just like mom and dad.
The Melissa & Doug Wooden Chef’s Pretend Play Toy Kitchen is our overall top recommendation. It's the highest quality product we have found with the most affordable price making it the best value on our list.
Additional Kitchen Accessories
(Most detailed design — $)
Why it’s great: You’ve most likely purchased a play kitchen for your little one, but now you’re in the market for a play cooking set. This wooden set with a detailed design comes with everything your child will need: saucepan, frying pan, spatula, ladle, utensils, and more. Pairing an accessory set like this one with a play kitchen will encourage creative thinking while your budding chef whips up new delicious meals to ‘serve’ you, and at the same time will be helping him/her develop basic kitchen skills. You can feel good about where the items come from, too… Hape is careful to source the wood from sustainable forests. Help nurture and develop your child’s natural abilities in the kitchen with this great addition.
Keep in mind: These products are made of wood, so they can’t have real food of any sort in them.
Good for: folks who already bought a play kitchen for their child, but need pots and pans to take it to the next level.
(Most affordable — $)
Why it’s great: Did you buy a kitchen set for your kiddo, and now they’re eager to get cooking? Grab this affordable play set that includes a whopping 45 pieces to complement a play kitchen. This combo not only includes pots, pans, and cutlery but also pretend fast food and fruits and vegetables. They’ll build motor skills and have fun sharing and role-playing as they cook. Just sit back and see where their imagination takes them!
Keep in mind: This is not meant for children under 3, so be aware of that when purchasing. This is because some of the play food is smaller than what you would expect, and little ones like to put things like this in their mouths when they are ‘pretend eating’, which can be a hazard for the younger kiddos.
Good for: children ages 3-5 who are learning the names of food items, and are eager to create masterpieces in the ‘kitchen’.
FAQs about Play Kitchens
1. My child likes to climb on top of things. Is there a way to secure the playsets to the wall so that it won’t fall over?
Kids definitely like to make a jungle out of everything that comes their way. You can buy anti-tip wall furniture straps to secure just about any play set to the wall. Keep in mind that when you do that, it’s not as easy to move around the playsets from room to room.
2. How do I know if a play kitchen will be the right size for my child?
It’s not as much about the height of the set, as it is about the counter height. Read the dimensions on the product description and pay attention specifically to the counter height, so that chopping and stirring will be easy for your child.
3. I like to keep my home organized and welcoming. Are there playsets that don’t have bold colors?
There are a lot of options out there, from super bright, eye-catching colors, to neutrals and soft hues. This play kitchen from Melissa & Doug is a good example of light colors that can blend in well with home décor. Other sets often have color options to choose from, so check for the one that fits your home the best.
4. Do I need to buy accessories for the kitchen set I choose?
Some of your current home items, like plastic tumblers or small plastic bowls, can be easily used in a child’s play kitchen. However, stay away from letting your child use metal pans (heavy and cumbersome) or glass items for playtime. Check out the two playsets we’ve suggested above that can be great additions.
5. Are the playsets difficult to put together?
Generally, no. They all come with instructions and it’s fairly easy to find a how-to video online to assist you with the construction. You will most likely need simple tools such as a screwdriver and hammer. As always, check ahead of time for what tools you might need to have on hand.
6. The weather is great right now. Can I put the playset outside on the back porch?
Technically, yes. But something to consider is creepy crawlies that might like to make this play kitchen their new home, and also that when the weather changes, the wooden kitchens will especially get damaged if rain hits. If you do choose to put the playset outside, I suggest keeping it in the shade (sometimes surfaces can heat up in the sun) and taking it inside in the evening.
7. I have twins. Should I buy two kitchen sets so that they won’t fight over it?
One of the best lessons learned with a play kitchen is how to share! Taking turns and eating each other’s creations is one kind of role play that factors into real life. I suggest getting a larger kitchen that has space for two chefs and giving them the opportunity to share the workspace. This Step 2 kitchen that we’ve reviewed above might be a good option for them.
It’s been said that the best toys are the ones that encourage interaction. Play kitchens definitely fall in that category with the hands-on, imaginative play that they offer. The skills the little ones gain as they play are actually building blocks for success in the future. They act out scenarios as they cook you the best ‘lunch’ you’ve ever had… all the while working on fine motor skills, social skills, and language learning at the same time. Problem-solving is another one of the many wonderful skills the children practice with their play kitchen. My kids have always loved going to a friend’s house for a play date, and their eyes light up if that friend has a play kitchen. Instantly, they’re transformed into miniature chefs, surely on their way to hosting their own show on a cable channel! Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but in my children’s minds, anything is possible when they put on their small aprons.
Finding the kitchen that fits your space, fits the age group you need, and inspires your specific child can be a challenge because there are so many choices out there. The top seven kitchens we’ve put together for you should help you narrow down the pros and cons of the different playsets so that you can find the one that really fits what your little one is looking for. Get ready to ‘try a whole bunch of new dishes….your little chef is about to take you on a whirlwind of taste-testing!