As a former preschool teacher, I am a huge fan of “home corners” as they are the perfect way for children to learn, through play, about the world around them! So you can imagine my excitement when we decided to get a kitchen set at home for our toddler, Willa.
We looked into kitchen sets after noticing how much our babe was interested in anything and everything to do with the kitchen. Unpacking groceries, preparing meals, choosing snacks, washing dishes - she wanted to help and learn about everything!
As soon as Willa saw what Santa had brought her on Christmas morning this past year, she got to work in her own kitchen, pretty much immediately. Watching her learn and develop so many skills over months and months of play has been wonderful and we’re excited to share our experience - watching the benefits of a play kitchen come to life before our eyes!
Communication & Language Skills
Whether she is putting a frittata into the oven, washing her hands, looking for ingredients in the fridge or shopping with her little grocery bag, we have noticed that Willa is constantly chattering about what she is doing - either to herself, a friend, her little baby brother or to a grownup. She’s practicing what she’s experienced in her own play - we’ve heard her use the following words and phrases and cannot help but be so proud! Our jaws are also usually dropped or we are laughing our heads off because we think she is the most amazing child on the planet, of course, and are definitely not biased at all.
“Lala making frittata…” (her nickname is Lala)
“Hmmm, where the recipe?”
“Little pinch of seasoning, little bit of honey!”
“Mix mix mix!”
“Too hot. Have to wait and blow…”
“Ice cubes. Collllllldddddd!!!! *pretend shiver*
“Mama, made a little tea for you.”
“Where IS the pot?”
“Put the timer on…DONE!”
Won’t stay on this very scintillating topic for too long, but the teacher in me gets very excited every time I hear Willa bringing numbers, shapes and measures into her play. It’s something we model with her throughout the day (counting blueberries for snack, using ‘1st’, ‘2nd’, ‘next’ when talking about our schedule for the day, choosing the size of bowl we need for the next activity, etc.) and she naturally brings it into her pretend cooking. Counting her vegetables, filling up her cup because it’s ‘empty’, following her pretend recipe using ‘first’ and ‘next’ to make her omelette - so many easy ways to bring maths into play!
Personal, Social & Emotional Development
Willa loves to take turns pretending to eat the cupcake, and she enjoys making food and drinks for her loved ones - this all contributes to forming positive relationships with her friends, brother and grownups in her life. Her confidence and independence are so strong when she is playing in her kitchen set - she knows what she is doing and does not need any help as she is able to access everything she needs on her own!
Learning Through Play
Everything I’ve talked about thus far is included in learning through play, which we know is the best way for children to learn in their early years. We often allow Willa to play independently in her kitchen unless she asks for help or we are pretend playing with her and modelling a new idea or skill she might like to learn.
Healthy Relationships with Food!
We find that our play kitchen is a great way to encourage and solidify healthy cooking and eating habits. After a lot of research, we decided to follow the Baby Led Weaning (BLW) method as we started solids with Willa. Along with our respectful parenting approach, we feel strongly that BLW has been a fantastic foundation for a healthy relationship with food and have seen excellent development in our babe. Willa will pretend play with her dolls and stuffed animals using the same phrases we use with her such as “you can eat it whenever you’re ready” and “let me know if you need help” - lovely to see.
Trying to live as sustainably as possible (sometimes it feels impossible!), I love that our kitchen, fridge and house shelf are made of wood, non-toxic finishes and will last for ages. I know Willa and her brother Linc will come back to it and play with it in so many different ways as they get older - it will be valuable to their learning for a long long time. Hopefully one day this beautiful set will get passed down to their babies and their babies’ babies!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christine is a mother of two with a Master’s in Early Years Education. She has always been passionate about teaching and working with the tiniest humans. Her goal is to provide her family with healthy and sustainable choices at all times, and to share those tips with you!