The 10 Best Play Kitchens
This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in June of 2015. Play kitchens offer an excellent way to encourage imaginative play, while also helping to develop gross and fine motor skills. These kids' sets are perfect for individuals or friends and siblings and come in a variety of styles that mimic full-size designs, from modern to retro. Most arrive with accessories to keep your children occupied for hours, including some that make engaging sounds. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
March 27, 2019:
While we have selected only those play kitchens that are known for quality and safety, we think it's important to note that all require adult supervision, as none are meant to be climbed upon, although curious children will try. Many do best when anchored to a wall or the floor, and for extra safety, you should check the structure and accessories occasionally for loose or missing pieces. With that in mind, we think the KidKraft Uptown Espresso and the Step2 Grand Walk-in both give you great bang for your buck. Each has an inviting design that lets little ones pretend to be just like grown ups. One drawback with the Step2 model, however, is the amount of time it takes to assemble (in fact, this problem is common to many of the manufacturer's play set offerings). But, if you are patient and can follow directions, the finished item seems to be worth the wait. We also added the Fisher-Price Servin' Up Fun as a top choice — why should only adults get to enjoy the awesomeness of food trucks? Plus, it encourages learning along with imagination, with places for shape sorting and counting. Lastly, we decided to remove the Hape My Creative Cookery Club. Hape is generally known for fine, high-quality toys, but this particular wood model has been criticized for its finish. Consider the Hape Gourmet or the KidKraft Grand Gourmet for relatively similar wood alternatives.
Kids Can Recycle, Too!
And not just its own toys, but any plastic toys it gets its hands on.
Did you know that Little Tikes is a proud member of the North American Plastic Recycling Network? Neither did I. Seriously, who would have thought that you could recycle a plastic garbage truck!?
When I grew up it was either Goodwill or the landfill. So who knows how many plastic kitchens are currently cooking dinner for the maggots over-populating the armpit of America. (That's a New Jersey joke, by the way.) But, thanks to Little Tikes and dozens of other toy companies, it's better late than never.
Based in eastern Ohio, Little Tikes sponsors its very own recycling effort to keep plastic toys out of landfills. And not just its own toys, but any plastic toys it gets its hands on. Most importantly, this program has been going on since 2006, so if you're thinking about buying a kitchen, it might not be as bad as you think to go plastic.
Made in U.S.A.
See the coal being burned to heat the furnace used to cook the plastic in this video of a toy factory in China? Not anymore!
As of 2013, Little Tikes has shifted production of its toys back from China to Cleveland, Ohio. And in place of burning coal, Little Tikes uses natural gas to fire up its plastic-cooking furnaces.
That being said, Step2's factory is also based in Cleveland, Ohio, which means 4 out of 5 of the top 5 play kitchens featured here are Made in U.S.A.
Make Me a Sandwich! Please?
You might be surprised by how oppressive the advertising for play kitchens once was. Then again, you might not.
From fake ironing boards in the 1940's, to unicorns adorning pink pastel microwaves in the 1980's, play kitchens have evolved from physical manifestations of patriarchal propaganda to playsets for both girls and boys.
Such were discussions of pink versus blue in alternative media.
Originally marketed for girls only, play kitchens weren't advertised to include just boys until the late 1990's and early 2000's. Remember the grunge era? "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? Well, as it turns out, MTV's often controversial videos had a much more massive impact on Western culture than most people think. Lo and behold, apart from inspiring drastic and widespread changes in fashion (most of which were rather horrendous), MTV also had a profound effect upon the marketing of children's toys.
Check out this video from Hole featuring Courtney Love in black wielding a pink Stratocaster, surrounded by ladies in purple dresses with blue slips designed to mix with Love's bright red dress. The irony is palpable. Better yet, here's a video from a female artist named Pink wearing a blue robe in an all blue bathroom in 2001. So thick with irony that it's no longer funny and you're forced to take it seriously. Such were discussions of pink versus blue in alternative media.
Enter parental reviews of play kitchens. Constant complaints about color schemes. Never minding the content, the bacon, the burgers, the pizzas, the order, the rules, the regulations informing, forming in our minds, corporate views of reality. "To think for yourself, you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness--chaotic, confused vulnerability--to inform yourself."
Be a builder.