5 Tips for Setting up a Play Kitchen or Reviving One You Already Have

Have a play kitchen?  Do your children still use it?  Here are 5 tips to consider when setting up a play kitchen for your child or alternately, some ideas to kick start a cooking revival in one you already have!

Here’s our current play kitchen setup which we’ve just moved to Lilah’s room.  She’s 2.  Luke loves to play with it, too.  He’s 4.  All our big parts came from Craigslist.  I tried hard at the time to find a gender neutral kitchen set, and they do make them, but this is what we ended up with.  

L&L have loved cooking in the their play kitchen for years now, so I thought I’d share 5 tips for setting up a play kitchen, or reviving one you already have, based on our experiences. 🙂

1.  In a play kitchen, I find less is more.  Unless you like cleaning up “more” all over the floor…often.  Stick with just a few of each item.  I find that the kids can handle more items the older they get, so just box up the excess you have and add it back in little by little.  You might start a young toddler with only a handful of items since the built-in kitchen appliances, like the sink and oven, are often of enough interest on their own.  Plus, the goal is for the kids to use their imagination, so whatever they don’t have, well, they can pretend!

2.  Add some hooks for your child to hang up their apron, pot holders, or chef’s hat.  It keeps these items off the floor when not in use and easy to find next time.  It also adds a dress-up element to the pretend play.  We used these easily removable hooks.

3.  Give your child real pantry items to play with in their kitchen…emptied and cleaned out of course.  My children find these much more fun to play with than purchased play food, and the best part is they’re FREE.  Most containers have lids that encourage fine motor skills practice, too.  If the containers start to look abused, just toss or recycle them.  My children love canned food (I use one of those smooth edge can openers), drink bottles, milk jugs, orange juice bottles, coffee creamer containers, kefir bottles, yogurt containers, spice containers, dish soap containers, dry noodles boxes, and so on.  Even giving L&L one new food container starts a whole new frenzy of cooking in the play kitchen, which I mentioned in my 25 Ways to Occupy a Preschooler post.

4. Add some colored scarfs or beaded necklaces to act as pretend food.  We have Kool-aid dyed play silks and TONS of Mardi Gras beads which the kids love to add to their containers to cook and serve.

5. Use “real” bowls and tubs to organize play food.  The picture below shows a “real” wooden bowl for the wooden eggs and a “real” yellow container for organizing various breakfast foods.  “Real” containers last a lot longer than most things you can buy which are made for kids’ kitchens AND you can just pull them from items you’re not using in your own kitchen or pick them up from Goodwill, the Dollar store, or yard sales for super cheap.

Do your children have a play kitchen?  
Do they use it often?

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2 comments to 5 Tips for Setting up a Play Kitchen or Reviving One You Already Have

  • I adore your play kitchen! I like the idea of “less is more”. I do that, too with a lot of things, it’s easy to add a few more things or switch things out.

  • Love the idea of beads and scarves as ingredients! We mostly use things like porridge oats and dried rice but this is much more colourful (and a lot less messy!!)

    Thanks for sharing on the Sunday Showcase – hope to see you there this week too!


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