Most kids aged 3 through 8 are master chefs. These food connoisseurs and wise bakers are always ready to create an ambitious meal, an elaborate cake, or complicated soup of imaginary ingredients for a family of eight using toy food. Like many fantasy worlds that kids create, play food and play cooking is one way that kids make sense of the world: They see their grown-ups doing mundane tasks like making dinner or grocery shopping, somehow convince themselves they’re fun, and make a go of it themselves with toy food sets. The best play food for kids looks like the real thing, but also lets kids get creative with how they arrange it.
“Pretend play certainly offers cognitive benefits, particularly increased language, as children speak as their role and interact with others during play. We also see children using the concept of theory of mind as they play pretend. Theory of mind is the understanding that one’s own thoughts and feelings may be different from another person’s, which children practice by taking on pretend roles and using their imaginations. Theory of mind is integral to social-emotional qualities and skills like empathy, the ability to predict others’ behavior, and making friends,” says child development expert Rebecca Parlakian, of Zero to Three.
Of course, you don’t need to buy play food: If you ask a 3-year-old, acorns or toy blocks can become imaginary food just as well as a basket of wooden vegetables. But they’re cute and fun and, most importantly, might give your child the idea to make avocado toast, which they might not have otherwise had. We’ve chosen play food for kids that are realistic enough and look good, so you won’t be complaining too much when they’re inevitably left on your real countertops or kitchen table.
The Best Play Food Sets for Kids
This well-made wooden toaster is the perfect addition to any kitchen set. You can adjust the cooking time with a realistic knob, drop in the bread slices, and pop them back up whenever they're ready — no patience required. The set includes two slices of bread, butter, honey, knife, and a plate.
A discerning gourmand will appreciate this play sushi set, which comes with sliceable sushi rolls, shrimp, tuna, egg, and roe toppings, a rice, dipping bowl, and a wooden knife. And of course chopsticks, which are also a handy way for little kids to practice their gripping skills.
We dig this play food set because it include a wok, tongs, plus carrots, broccoli, peppers, celery, onions, and a fortune cookie. Kids work their ability to grab a small object with the thumb and forefinger, which is an important part of child development.
If you want to instill better eating habits in your kid, this vegetable set from Hape might be a better option that the coffeemaker. The wooden set comes with a cutting board, play knife, two-sided grater and peeler so your kids can practice their culinary skills with all the necessary equipment.
The play food and kitchen accessories by Milton & Goose are better-looking than most things in our real-life kitchens. If you want your kid to play with food that looks and feels nice, and that will make the play area an actually good-looking part of the house, this is your veggie set.
Whether your kid wants to play customer or check-out worker, this mini-grocery set allows for hours of fun scenario-building play time. The set comes with felt vegetables like lettuce and carrots, and also milk and snack packages to complete a realistic looking grocery haul.
There's no better food set than avocado toast if your kid wants to feel like an adult (or a millennial, more specifically). The simple polyester-felt set comes with two pieces of toast, and six slices of avocado, making it an easy meal to whip up for younger kids and toddlers.
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