20 Best Play Food Sets Reviewed in 2018

Order up!

Take a seat, madams, and monsieurs, your table is ready.  Tonight, the chef is delighted to be serving plastic burgers, with imaginary ketchup and mustard.  Your server will be right with you to fill those water glasses from a pitcher of air.

But come on; it’s pretty darn cute when your little ones serve you up a giant hunk of inedible plastic tomato.  They’re mimicking what they see adults doing in restaurants and their very own kitchen. Imitation is one of the highest forms of flattery, and we all know most tots are dying to be just like mom and/or dad.  So get them started on their culinary journey with the best play food sets the market has to offer. Whether they need groceries for their kitchen set, or they’re looking to expand their palette and pantry for the weekend barbecue, we’ve got just the thing for them.

Most children begin learning about food groups and nutrition as early as preschool.  Help them to identify their healthy fruits and vegetables, and occasionally indulge in a treat by engaging in their imaginative play with them.  Let them boss you around their mini kitchen. Leave an exquisite review after dining at their restaurant. And then, when they’re ready, take them into the family kitchen with you to move onto the real goods.

Last Updated: September 3, 2018
Angela
By Angela:

This page was recently updated to best reflect the most up to date, accurate and pertinent information about all products on our list of the best play food sets in 2018. We updated our criteria section, made sure all products are still available and that they are the highest rated and best-reviewed products available today.

Our Top 3 Picks

Melissa & Doug Food Groups
  • Melissa & Doug Food Groups
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Healthy Pretend Play
  • Price: See Here
Learning Resources Fruit & Veggie
  • Learning Resources Fruit & Veggie
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Speech Development
  • Price: See Here
Learning Resources New Sprouts
  • Learning Resources New Sprouts
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • 20-Piece Set
  • Price: See Here

Criteria Used In Evaluation of The Best Play Food Sets

Educational

Young kids learn best through play. The list that we provided above will help kids develop lifelong skills in a variety of ways. While playing with these toy food sets kids will learn the names of common food items and the food groups they belong in. Kids will also learn about the importance of properly preparing food and serving it to others. The cutting utensils will help kids to develop fine motor skills and pay attention to detail as they safely and properly slice various fruits and vegetables. In addition to that, kids will learn about the names of colors, counting and sorting as well as organizing and storing food.

Gender neutral

One of the best things about our list of play food sets is that they are all unisex, or gender neutral. All kids can enjoy playing with these sets whether they are a boy or a girl. There used to be a stigma that cooking in the kitchen was reserved only for girls and that grilling was only for boys. However, that’s not what real life today entails. Through these gender-neutral toys, both, girls and boys can do and enjoy the same things. This is great for parents who have kids of different genders to teach them how to share and play together.

Durability

It’s tough to find play food sets that aren’t made of flimsy, thin plastic. But through our research, we did just that as we compiled our list of the 20 best play food sets for kids. It’s an important to for kids to have toys that are made to last. Our list includes timeless wooden toys are designed to stand up against frequent use. The plastic toys on our list are crush-resistant as they are made with hard, durable plastic to ensure years of imaginative, physical and social play to come.

How We Came Up with Our Most Popular List

Understanding the predicament of every parent has been our primary motivation for performing a very exhaustive research into the best play food sets available today. It is very important that we take into consideration the safety of the materials used in the manufacture of such toys. They must be free from lead, phthalate, BPA, and other harmful chemicals. Additionally, the design must be appropriate to the developmental age of children. For example, older kids will require more realistic play food items while younger children will need safer and more rounded play foods because of safety considerations. We also had to consider what other parents and consumers have to say about these play food sets. We want to provide you with a list of toys that have been fully accepted and duly recommended by fellow parents. Lastly, we also had to look at the trustworthiness of the toy maker. This is crucial because a company with a good manufacturing practices certification will clearly be a lot better choice than one that doesn’t have any certification at all. Recipients of specific toy design awards are also counted.

Children and the Value of Play Food Sets

One of the most challenging aspects of child-rearing is getting young children to have exhibit appreciation for a wide variety of foods especially fruits and vegetables. This is where play food sets can help parents by providing kids with the right tools to simulate the planning of meals, the preparation of food, the cooking of dishes, and the organization and setting up of the table. While it is understandable that younger kids will still not be able to really appreciate the concept of good nutrition, older kids will learn about adhering to the different food groups. When played together with other children, it can help foster healthier eating habits by conforming to the rules set by the peer group.

For younger children, the bright colors of the play food sets can help enhance mastery of the different hues. They will also be able to reinforce their mastery of different colors and shapes through the play food items that they are provided. In some types of toys where the food items form part of a puzzle, these help develop early problem-solving skills particularly the convergent type.

However, as older kids can play with the play food sets in an open-ended manner, their divergent problem-solving skills, as well as counterfactual reasoning skills, can be developed an/or enhanced. This type of problem-solving skill makes use of more complex cognitive processes that are essential building blocks to more complicated experimentation, scientific problem solving, and logic and critical thinking. Playing in an open-ended manner helps facilitate the formation of what-if phenomenon which can help enhance children’s ability for prediction.

On the physical side of child development, picking up the different types of play foods require control of smaller groups of muscles. It also helps develop hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and spatial intelligence. For older kids, playing with these foods on a make-believe kitchen can help strengthen leg and arm muscles as kids will have to make use of larger groups of muscles to move about and cook and prepare their make-believe dishes.

Regardless of age, the mere fact that play food sets help children act out their fantasies can help in their emotional development. This can become the basis for the development of a healthier self-concept, boosting their self-confidence, and help establish more trusting relationships with their parents, their siblings, their friends, and other persons in their lives.

Play food sets are clearly one of the best gifts you can ever give a child. With our list of the 20 best play food sets for kids, we are confident that your kid will love you more when you give them one or all of these toys in our list.

Safety

When searching for the top rated products, we also factored in the health and safety of the materials being used.  The majority of the products on the list are BPA free, as noted by the company on their website or on Amazon. All toys are easy to wipe down and wash so bacteria can’t collect in those nasty crevices and cause infections and illness.  Products are all made of soft plastic, felt, or wood, and we’ve avoided sets that have too many sharp edges, which might snag soft little fingers and skin.

Give kids the chance to dice and chop with the best of us.  Multiple sets have plastic or wooden knives with produce that splits in half so children can safely practice cutting skills without mom and/or dad worrying about them hurting themselves.  Velcro inserts allow these pieces to pull apart and stick back together so kids can do it again and again. We know they want to feel like big boys and girls, and we know YOU want them to learn carefully and in their own time.

We’ve aimed to collect toys that are easy for children to handle, even when very young and still building their motor skills, while also being free of harmful chemicals and potential choking hazards.  Always remember to supervise toddlers when they’re working with especially small pieces. If they’re really sneaky chewers, remove the smaller pieces from the set before giving it to them, and save those toys for a later date, when they’re a little more age appropriate.

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are these toys BPA-Free?

A: Through our research, we discovered that yes, the majority of the items in the food sets are BPA-Free. BPA or Bisphenol A is a harsh chemical that is used in epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics. BPA can have a negative effect on our health. With BPA-Free toys, you can rest in knowing that your kid isn’t playing with toys made of toxic, harsh chemicals such as lead and phthalate. It’s always important to check with the toy manufacturer to find out what type of materials the toys are made of.

Q: Are these toys washable?

A: Yes, all of these toys are easily washable. For the plastic toys, to wash them, we recommend that you take the following steps:
Start by spraying them down with your favorite eco friendly cleaner and wiping them off with a hand towel to remove all dirt and debris.
Fill your sink or a bucket up with a warm soapy solution to allow the toys to soak for a few minutes.
Afterwards, scrub them gently to sanitize them well.
Lastly, rinse and air dry.

Q: How should I clean and sanitize the wooden toys?

A: For wooden toys, you should not let them soak for the fact that it may cause water damage. To remove dirt and debris from the toys, lightly spray them with your favorite eco friendly cleaner, and gently wipe them down. To properly sanitize them:
Allow a washcloth soak in a warm soapy solution.
Ring the washcloth out and gently scrub the wooden toy.
Use a separate washcloth to rinse any remaining soap off and allow to dry.

Q: Are the toys appropriate to use in a childcare center?

A: Yes, the food sets listed above are appropriate to use in a childcare center. They are safe, durable and very educational. Kids in childcare centers will enjoy these fun toys and can use them as supplements to go along with lessons such as math, reading, and culinary arts. They can also just use these toys to have lots of fun, as they promote imaginative, physical and social play. The food sets on our list will also encourage kids to share with others.

Q: Are the cutting toys magnetic?

A: No, the cutting toys are not magnetic. However, they are easy to stick together and take apart as Velcro is glued onto the pieces. The Ice Cream Scoop Set by Melissa and Doug is the only magnetic toy set on our list.

Q: Are these toys safe for outdoor use?

A: Yes, these toys are safe to play with outdoors. The food sets on our 20 best play food sets for kids list are all crush-resistant and durably made. However, we don’t recommend leaving the toys outdoors for a long period of time as the vibrant colors may become faded from the heat of the sun. In addition to that, the wooden toys may become ruined if left out in the rain for an extended amount of time.

Sources

  1. Brent A. Bauer, M.D. , Nutrition and healthy eating, Informative Article,
  2. Alina Petre, MS, , What is BPA and Why is it Bad for You?, Informative Article,
  3. Dexter Chan , The Benefits Of Toy Food And Play Kitchen For Child Development, Informative Article,
  4. Positive Parenting, How To Make The Very Most Out of Pretend Play In The Toddler Years, Informative Article,
  5. Melissa & Doug, Cutting Fruit Set Wooden Playset, Product Information,