The 10 Best Play Kitchens
10. Teamson Kids Little Chef
9. KidKraft Vintage
8. Little Tikes Super Chef
7. Melissa & Doug Cook's Corner
6. Hape My Creative Cookery Club
5. KidKraft Grand Gourmet
4. Step2 Grand Walk-in
3. Hape Playfully Delicious Gourmet
2. Step2 LifeStyle
1. KidKraft Uptown
Kids Can Recycle, Too!
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.
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.