As a parent of a child under 5, you're always on the lookout for ways to engage and entertain your little one. Wooden toy kitchens provide an excellent opportunity for children to learn, develop, and have fun, all while imitating the domestic chores they see you perform. In this article, we will explore the benefits of play with wooden toy kitchens, and offer suggestions for making the most of this type of playtime.
Your child is watching
Children learn through play.
Everybody knows that, right?
But they also learn through imitation.
They learn by watching more capable others (you, in other words).
It’s easy to learn to use blocks by yourself. You pick some up and try to stack them. But how do you learn about cooking or using a kettle if you are two? Such activities are far too dangerous for a young child to experiment with. So you imitate. You pretend to cook pizza in the oven or boil water for tea. You watch adults and see how they do it.
Montessori practical life
One notable feature of the Montessori approach is ‘practical life’. These activities focus on providing children with opportunities to engage in purposeful, everyday tasks that contribute to their independence, coordination, concentration and sense of order. These activities encompass a wide range of skills, including self-care tasks, care of the environment, ‘grace and courtesy’ and fine motor activities. Practical life activities may include pouring, spooning, buttoning, sweeping, washing dishes, and setting the table. They help children develop essential life skills, refine their fine and gross motor skills, enhance their concentration and attention span, cultivate a sense of responsibility and gain a greater understanding of their place within their immediate environment. Practical life activities not only prepare children for their daily routines but also foster their overall development and lay the foundation for future academic and social success.
What better way to enjoy practical life activities than with a wooden toy kitchen?
Grace and courtesy
'Grace and courtesy' is a key component of the Montessori curriculum. It encompasses a wide range of skills and actions that promote harmonious relationships, empathy and consideration for others. The focus is on greeting others, saying "please" and "thank you," offering help, using polite language, taking turns, resolving conflicts peacefully, and showing respect for personal space and belongings.
Again, all things that happen naturally when you play in the home corner.
Not just a kitchen
Buying a toy kitchen is a big commitment. You can’t tidy it away at the end of the day so it has to earn its place.
Fortunately, it’s so much more than just a place for your child to imitate your domestic activities. Here are five creative ways to repurpose your kitchen:
- Restaurant or café: Transform the toy kitchen into a restaurant or café setting, where children can take on the roles of chefs, waiters, and customers. Introduce math and writing by Encourage imaginative play by allowing children to create menus, take orders, prepare meals, and serve their "customers."
- Science Lab: Convert the toy kitchen into a science lab where children can conduct experiments and explore scientific concepts. Provide beakers, test tubes, food coloring, and other safe materials for children to engage in hands-on science activities, such as mixing solutions, observing reactions, and exploring the properties of different substances.
- Art Studio: Utilize the toy kitchen as an art studio where children can engage in various art and craft activities. Provide art supplies like paints, brushes, clay, paper, and other materials for children to explore their creativity and create masterpieces in their "studio."
- Farmer's Market or Grocery Store: Repurpose the toy kitchen as a farmer's market or grocery store setup. Fill it with pretend fruits, vegetables, and other grocery items, and allow children to take turns playing the roles of shoppers, cashiers, and store owners. Encourage activities like weighing produce, calculating prices, and engaging in pretend transactions.
- Doctor's Office or Veterinary Clinic: Transform the toy kitchen into a doctor's office or veterinary clinic, providing a setting for medical and caregiving role-play. Include medical supplies like bandages, stethoscope, toy medical instruments, and stuffed animals or dolls as patients.
What are the best toys to include in a home corner?
A well-stocked kitchen is about more than just the food. Do you have the pots, pans, utensils and crockery you need? How about tray to serve it on? And will you offer drinks? A smoothie, perhaps?
Here are some ideas:
- wooden play food
- smoothie maker
- tea set and tray
- birthday cake
- chopping board
- groceries and basket
- pots and pans
- coffee machine
- tea stand
Add props from around the home
Of course, a toy kitchen is not just for toys.
Throw in some child-safe utensils or crockery and use real food packets and tins. An upturned cardboard box makes a perfect table. An old shawl is just the right size for a tablecloth.
Brooms, mops, aprons, and cutlery can all be used to add a touch of realism to play and encourage your child to further explore their creativity.
Playing alongside your child in their wooden toy kitchen is a fantastic way to model appropriate play behaviour and vocabulary. By joining in, you can help your child learn how to use their toys and props effectively, and teach them the correct terminology for various kitchen items and actions. As a bonus, you'll have a chance to be a guest at their delightful imaginary tea parties!
Toddlers and preschoolers play differently
As your child grows, the way they engage with their wooden toy kitchen will evolve. Toddlers are more likely to enjoy sensorimotor play, making repetitive movements and exploring the properties of materials, while preschoolers’ focus is more on the imagination. Encourage your child's development by adapting your playtime to their interests and abilities.
The imitative and imaginative play you get in a toy kitchen has a central role in your child’s development. If you don’t have the space for the full-sized affair, consider a simple kitchenette. You’ll get a lot of the same play value but in a much smaller package.
Whichever one you choose, you can be sure your child will develop foundational skills - and have brilliant fun doing so.