Play kitchens are, by far, one of the most popular children’s toys. Little ones of all ages and genders love to make believe that they are cooking, grilling, and even washing dishes! This form of pretend-play often stems from emulating tasks that they see their parents performing and since we always seem to be cooking something up, its no surprise that this is often the first imaginative play our little ones conceive.
A play kitchen can only go so far without some play food! As your little one grows and progresses from milk to solids to finger foods and beyond, their interest in different types of food will naturally grow. Providing your child with toy food can encourage their creativity but it can also help you understand them better, especially in the case of non-verbal children. Baby sign and gestures are great for understanding your little one’s basic needs but when they can bring you a banana to show that they are hungry, you will be more prepared to meet their needs.
Play food also provides opportunities for your child to understand the nuances and social expectations that come with food preparation and eating. Hosting a tea party with their stuffed animals may seem like a fun time but these play sessions can actually teach your little one how to politely ask for condiments, introduce socializing concepts, and even help encourage utensil use. They can learn food preparation skills, cutting techniques, and build motor skill control all within the safety of their playroom.
We have gathered a selection of play food sets from across the /internet. These sets meet a wide variety of styles from basic plastic food to fill up your little one’s kitchen to wooden food that they can actually “cut” in half! Whether you are looking for some accessories for your child’s play area or want to teach them crucial life skills in a safe space, we hope that one of our 10 Best Play Food Sets will get your little one cooking!
Our Top 3 Picks
- Melissa & Doug Food Groups
- Healthy Pretend Play
- Learning Resources Fruit & Veggie
- Speech Development
- Learning Resources New Sprouts
- 20-Piece Set
Criteria Used In Evaluation of The Best Play Food Sets
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 learn the names of common food items and the food groups they belong in. Kids 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.
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.
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 10 best play food sets for kids. It’s important for kids to have toys that are made to last. Our list includes timeless wooden toys that 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 search 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 has 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 an 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 people in their lives.
Play food sets are clearly one of the best gifts you can ever give a child. With our list of the 10 best play food sets for kids, we are confident that your kid will be excited to cook up something new!
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.
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.
Afterward, 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 to 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.
Q: Are these toys safe for outdoor use?
A: Yes, these toys are safe to play with outdoors. The food sets on our 10 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.
Q: What if my child chews on these food-shaped toys?
A: There is always a risk of a child chewing on their toys, whether they are food-shaped or not! Most of the products on this list are recommended for children who are at least 3 years old and well past the teething stage to prevent chewing as much as possible. They are also BPA- and toxin-free so even if your little one does take a nibble there is no concern that it will be detrimental to their health.
Q: Are toy knives appropriate for young children?
A: Whether you allow your child to play with the utensils included with some of these food sets is entirely up to you. Research suggests that introducing toddlers to utensil and knife use from a young age can actually deter them from incorrect use down the road. Of course, this is best done in a controlled setting, such as with the plastic toys included with these food play sets. Teaching your child proper knife etiquette through the use of pretend play can help discourage them from kitchen accidents in the future.
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