Overview

Introduction

Make-believe play has many positive benefits for children. Children learn by watching, imagining, then doing. The first teachers for children are their parents.

Children constantly observe their parents while they do chores around the house, interact with one another and other family members or friends, and while parents “play” (swim, make-believe with their children, etc.). Children begin observing everything that goes on around them as soon as they can focus.

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Child care facilities, pre-k’s, and primary schools all use make-believe play to help children begin to learn. Many pre-k and kindergarten classrooms have kitchen playsets as well as baby nurseries and other settings that allow children to use their imaginations and learn to interact with others.

Make-believe play is an important part of your child’s emotional, social, and cognitive development. Here are 5 positive benefits of make-believe (dramatic) play:

  1. Promotes self-regulation because children learn to control their impulses while playing by the rules of the game, learn to communicate with others, and they learn to plan out different scenarios to play out with their friends.
  2. Provides an emotional outlet for children and allows them to learn how to control their emotions in different settings.
  3. Promotes conflict resolution skills as children work with others to create and act out planned scenarios. Children may not always agree how the scenarios should be acted out – and they learn to work together, to compromise, and to find solutions that benefit everyone.
  4. Promotes literacy. Children learn by seeing words written on things that we see each day – for example, when pretending to shop, children may use a shopping list; if they are pretending to eat in a restaurant, they may use a menu. This allows them to see how literacy is a part of our everyday, real world.
  5. Promotes reading comprehension. Often children will re-enact a story that has been read to them, especially it is one of their favorites stories. Children often act out fairy tales that have been read to them – tales of princes and princesses, or a favorite of many children, the big, bad wolf.

Pretend play has numerous benefits, including promoting physical development, social development, language development, emotional development, and thinking skills.

All of these are important and help your child grow up to be confident, strong, and eager to learn. Children learn by mimicking what they see in the home – what better way to help them develop that a play kitchen?

As your children’s first “teacher”, it is important to encourage them to explore the world around them. It is important to teach them how to develop relationships with others and how to treat others so that it is easy to maintain healthy relationships.

Your children learn all of this through play, through mimicking the actions of others around them, and by having and settling disagreements in a civil manner. It’s amazing the role “play” has in our children’s development.

 

Quick Summary Comparisons Chart

Photo:
Step2 Grand Walk-In Kitchen &...
KidKraft Ultimate Corner Play...
KidKraft Uptown Espresso...
Uptown Natural Kitchen
Age:
24 Months – 8 Years
36 Months – 15 Years
36 Months – 15 Years
3 Years And Up
Dimensions:
36 x 50.8 x 47 Inches
42.4 x 32.7 x 36.6 Inches
42.5 x 17.1 x 41 Inches
43 x 17.8 x 41 Inches
Accessories
Included
Not Included
Not Included
Not Included
Price:
$$$
$$$
$$
$$
Best Seller
Photo:
Step2 Grand Walk-In Kitchen &...
Age:
24 Months – 8 Years
Dimensions:
36 x 50.8 x 47 Inches
Accessories
Included
Price:
$$$
Photo:
KidKraft Ultimate Corner Play...
Age:
36 Months – 15 Years
Dimensions:
42.4 x 32.7 x 36.6 Inches
Accessories
Not Included
Price:
$$$
Our #1 Choice
Photo:
KidKraft Uptown Espresso...
Age:
36 Months – 15 Years
Dimensions:
42.5 x 17.1 x 41 Inches
Accessories
Not Included
Price:
$$
Photo:
Uptown Natural Kitchen
Age:
3 Years And Up
Dimensions:
43 x 17.8 x 41 Inches
Accessories
Not Included
Price:
$$
Photo:
Step2 Heart Of The Home...
Step2 LifeStyle Custom Kitchen...
USA Toyz Hape Play Kitchen for...
Teamson Kids Berlin Wooden...
Age:
24 Months – 8 Years
24 Months – 6 Years
3 Years And Up
36 Months - 15 Years
Dimensions:
12 x 45.1 x 48 Inches
14 x 28 x 41.5 Inches
21 x 27.8 x 12.6 Inches
34 x 11.8 x 37 Inches
Accessories
Included
Included
Included
Included
Rating:
Price:
$$
$
$$
$$
Photo:
Step2 Heart Of The Home...
Age:
24 Months – 8 Years
Dimensions:
12 x 45.1 x 48 Inches
Accessories
Included
Rating:
Price:
$$
Photo:
Step2 LifeStyle Custom Kitchen...
Age:
24 Months – 6 Years
Dimensions:
14 x 28 x 41.5 Inches
Accessories
Included
Rating:
Price:
$
Photo:
USA Toyz Hape Play Kitchen for...
Age:
3 Years And Up
Dimensions:
21 x 27.8 x 12.6 Inches
Accessories
Included
Rating:
Price:
$$
Photo:
Teamson Kids Berlin Wooden...
Age:
36 Months - 15 Years
Dimensions:
34 x 11.8 x 37 Inches
Accessories
Included
Rating:
Price:
$$

Top Picks and Why – Full Review

1. KidKraft Ultimate Corner Play Kitchen

The KidKraft Ultimate Corner Play Kitchen is one of the best wooden play kitchens available. Made of composite wood products, this play kitchen is durable and designed to provide your child with hours of make-believe fun.

There is plenty of room for more than one child to play. The play kitchen includes a stove, refrigerator, freezer, oven, microwave, dishwasher, and a washing machine for a complete kitchen setup. Lights and sounds make this one of the best kids play kitchens because of the authenticity of the product.

What We Liked
  • Functional doors on the refrigerator, freezer, oven, dishwasher, microwave, and washing machine.
  • Ice maker and stove-top burners make authentic sounds and light up.
  • Includes a storage space below the sink – just like a real-life kitchen.
  • Includes counter space for food prep.
  • Neutral colors make this perfect for boys or girls.
What We Didn't Like
  • Parents have stated that assembly is difficult and can take from 2-4 hours.

2. Step2 Heart of the Home Kitchen Playset

One of the best play kitchens for 2-year-olds is the Step2 Grand Walk-in Kitchen and Grill. This play kitchen is equipped with everything your children need to re-enact everyday situations they have observed.

The Grand Walk-in features a stove top, grill, refrigerator, and attached dining area – providing hours of fun with family and friends. Children can invite friends over for a cookout, prepare family meals, or host dinner or birthday parties. The sky (or your child’s imagination) is the limit with this play kitchen.

What We Liked
  • Includes 103-piece accessory set that includes dishes, condiments, and food.
  • Grill, stovetop, and phone make realistic sounds.
  • Appliances are modern and stainless steel.
  • Includes a large sink with faucet for “washing” dishes.
  • Storage areas throughout the kitchen for accessories.
  • Dining area allows children to host dinners, cookouts, or parties.
  • Neutral colors make it appropriate for boys and girls.
What We Didn't Like
  • Instructions are pictures only – with no step-by-step written instructions.

3. Step2 Grand Walk-In Kitchen and Grill

The farmhouse style of the Step2 Heart of the Home Play Kitchen makes it one of the best play kitchens for toddlers. With a pet feeding station and realistic sounds, this play kitchen will make your child feel right at home.

This fully stocked kitchen is large enough for multiple children to cook on the stovetop, in the oven, or heat leftovers in the microwave. It even includes a dry-erase grocery list and reusable grocery bag, so your child can stock up when supplies are running low. This sturdy, molded-plastic kitchen is one of the best toddler play kitchens on the market – and is built to last.

What We Liked
  • Stovetop burner features bubbling sounds and lights for an authentic cooking experience. Phone also makes realistic sounds.
  • Pet dishes allow children to bring their favorite stuffed pet into the action.
  • Interchangeable picture frame allows you to place your child’s favorite family (or other) photo in the kitchen for a personalized touch.
  • 41-piece accessory set included.
  • Plenty of storage available for storing dishes and food.
  • Includes a recycling bin so your child can learn the importance or recycling.
What We Didn't Like
  • Holes for the screws are not pre-drilled, so this extra step must be taken when assembling.

4. KidKraft Uptown Natural Kitchen

For the best play kitchen for 5-year-olds, the KidKraft Uptown Natural Kitchen may be what you are looking for. This sturdy wooden kitchen is the perfect size for your child and friends or siblings to pretend they are running the kitchen. It includes a refrigerator, freezer, oven, stovetop, microwave, sink, and dishwasher for a realistic play area.

Based in Dallas, Texas, KidKraft has been providing quality toys for over 50 years. KidKraft toys are designed to inspire exploration and creativity – and the company is fully committed to inspiring young minds to be all they can be.

What We Liked
  • Includes a chalkboard on the freezer for grocery lists.
  • All doors open and close – and appliances can be used for storage when not playing.
  • Large enough for more than one child to play at once.
  • Built sturdy enough to last through many meals.
  • Neutral colors make it appropriate for boys and girls.
What We Didn't Like
  • Accessories are not included.
  • Oven and dishwasher door open to the side rather than opening like real-life doors.

5. KidKraft Uptown Espresso Kitchen

By the time your child has reached the age of 6, the creative juices are really flowing, and role-playing is a large part of their fun. This sturdy play kitchen has interactive features that allow your children to experience “real” kitchen scenarios with friends or siblings.

Designed to last for years, this play kitchen lasts from first child to last – providing years of entertainment and expressive play. The stove-top is equipped with four raised burners and the oven and microwave have see-through doors for a more realistic look.

What We Liked
  • Large enough for multiple children to play.
  • Sturdy enough to provide years of play for your children and their friends.
  • Neutral design makes it appropriate for boys and girls.
  • Includes a cordless phone and four pegs for hanging accessories.
  • Chalkboard for grocery list and paper towel holder makes this kitchen more authentic.
What We Didn't Like
  • Assembly can be time-consuming because instructions have no written words.

6. Step2 LifeStyle Custom Kitchen

As one of the best children’s play kitchens, the Step2 LifeStyle Custom Kitchen Playset come equipped with everything your child needs for hours of make-believe fun. This play kitchen is designed with an upscale and chic look that any girl or boy will love – and comes with a stainless-steel oven, microwave, and refrigerator. To enhance the upscale look, this kitchen has “granite” counter tops, decorative plate rack, and a storage shelf.

Based in Streetsboro, Ohio, Step2 began in 1991 with five employees. Their success has allowed them to grow into one of the most popular manufacturers of children’s products and they now have over 800 employees. Their mission is to create toys that foster learning and development through creative play from toddlers to school-aged kids.

What We Liked
  • The upscale look in neutral colors makes this the perfect play kitchen for boys and girls of all ages.
  • Realistic sounds provide an authentic cooking experience – when placed on the front burner, the pot and frying pan activate authentic boiling water and frying sounds.
  • Includes a 20-piece accessory set.
  • Microwave is equipped with an electronic keypad that makes the sounds of a real microwave when your child sets the time – just like mom and dad’s microwave (source).
  • Large enough for multiple children to play.
What We Didn't Like
  • The most common concern for parents is that the refrigerator door is difficult to operate for younger children.

7. Hape Wood Kids Play Kitchen

If you are searching for the best play kitchen for 3-year-olds, the Hape Wood Kids Play Kitchen may be just the thing. Made with high-quality wood, this play kitchen is built to withstand the rigors of everyday play – and it is large enough for more than one child to play.

The Hape Wood Kids Play Kitchen includes a stovetop, oven, sink, and storage area under the sink for children to store their favorite dishes and food. Make-believe play with this play kitchen promotes creativity, social development, and boost spatial and organizational skills.

What We Liked
  • Constructed with 100% non-toxic material and dyes so it is safe for children of all ages.
  • Includes 13-piece wooden accessory kit – including plates, forks, knives, pan, pot with lid, mixing spoon, spatula, and salt/pepper shakers.
  • Sturdy wood construction provides years of kitchen fun for your little ones.
  • Realistic-looking sink with storage underneath allows your child to make-believe in a kitchen that looks just like mom and dad’s.
  • Perfect toy for boys and girls who are ready to play make-believe.
What We Didn't Like
  • This kitchen is smaller than others

Final Thoughts

Free play is just as important for your child as structured learning. Free play helps children to develop a sense of their own identity – who they are, what they like, what they don’t like. Free play helps children, even babies, learn to make their own choices (Source).

Make-believe play helps children develop social skills at an early age – skills that will help them succeed in school and beyond. They learn to communicate with others, work out differences, and work together to reach a certain outcome. They learn to share, and to care about others – all through play.

Parents play an influential role in how children learn to interact with the world around them. Contribute to your child’s learning experience by encouraging (and participating in) pretend play. If you are invited to our child’s kitchen for a dinner s/he has prepared, be sure to attend and pretend!

As parents, we teach our children about relationships by example. Observation is one the most fundamental processes of learning – and children watch everything we do, even when we think their minds are occupied with other things. The observe how we develop and maintain our relationships, how we treat others, they learn about empathy and love through observing us showing these things.

Finding the best kid play kitchen for your children will allow you to encourage role-playing games that help them develop social, cognitive, and spatial skills that will last a lifetime. Fun is learning – learning is fun.

Childhood is marked with many important milestones – and learning at an early age is essential for a successful adult (source). But, most of all, childhood is supposed to be FUN! Encourage your child’s developmental growth by encouraging free play and creative play – and watch your child grow to be a confident and expressive member of your household and the community around you. Your child’s success begins with YOU! Let’s PLAY!

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