If you’ve got little kids, you know that making meals can be one of the toughest times of the day. The kids want all of your attention—right now—and you want to keep them clean and occupied so they don’t become a danger to themselves or anyone else. One of the best ways to keep kids busy in the kitchen is to let them “help” you with meal prep and cooking. You could give them an actual pot full of water, but your toddler or preschooler will turn that into a slippery mess in 30 seconds. A better (and far less messy) option is to set your child up at the kitchen table with some pretend food to “slice,” “dice,” and “cook” while you do the real thing at a nearby counter. Here are some very realistic kids’ cooking sets that will make your little one feel like a real grown-up.
Cooking and Kitchen Sets (Melissa & Doug)
Melissa & Doug have a pretty broad selection of cooking and kitchen sets that are made of either wood or felt. The Sandwich Making Sets come with everything your child will need to make a delicious sandwich, including bread, rolls, lunch meat, pickles, hamburgers, and more. If you go for the wood set, the pieces stick together with bits of Velcro; the felt pieces stick together on their own. Both come with a wooden knife (that isn’t sharp, of course). To make sure your child gets the recommended daily allowance of pretend fruits and veggies (and, maybe to encourage him or her to eat the real thing at mealtime), check out the Cutting Fruit Set. You get seven pieces of various fruits and veggies that can be sliced into a total of seventeen pieces, which can be reassembled into some really weird combinations that will get you and the kids giggling. The food makes a fun “crunch” noise when kids “cut” it with the included wooden knife. Comes in a wooden storage crate. $20 on http://www.melissaanddoug.com
Tea Set Sticker Party (Alex Toys)
Here’s one that combines two kids’ favorites: tea and stickers. This 13-piece, ceramic tea set comes with more than 100 stickers that your kiddo can use to decorate and customize. Then, all he or she needs to do is send out the invitations, make sure there are enough chairs for the guests (which may or may not include stuffies), and start pouring tea while you get your Alton Brown on. The Tea Set Sticker Party comes with four cups, four saucers, a sugar bowl, and creamer, and let’s not forget all those stickers. $19 at http://www.alextoys.com
Let’s Dish (B Toys)
A lot of kitchen toys are aimed at girls, but B Toys, makers of all things awesome, has a completely gender-neutral kitchen set made of brightly colored, durable plastic. It comes with a green tray that’s perfect for serving hors d’oeuvres to special real or imaginary guests, breakfast in bed (or on the couch) to mom or dad, or chips and dip on game day. The dishes, cups, and (safe) silverware can be used with pretend foods or real foods, something the kids will get a real kick out of. Best of all, everything in this set can be washed clean with soap and water. This well-made set will last for years. $20 at Target http://www.target.com