It’s safe to say that food is a pretty big part of our lives, and has been since, what, the beginning of time? It is no surprise then that food-related toys and kitchen sets are one of the most popular gift ideas to this day. Kids of every gender and background can appreciate a good meal, which means that food might just be one of the most universal things out there.
The best kids cooking toys take advantage of this universality by providing exciting & realistic iterations of all our favorite foods, as well as the pretend appliances, pots, pans, & utensils to complete the imaginary cooking process from start to finish.
We’re counting down some of the best toddler cook sets that we could find, then sharing a bit of what we learned in the process. Afterwards, we’ll reveal our top pick for the best kids cook set of the year.
Comprehensive Kitchen Toys Set
Just like any good grown-up home chef, any inspiring youngster would love to have a complete set of kitchen toys in order to better prepare their finest make-believe cuisine. This all-in-one kitchen play set from the folks at JOYIN is a great way to introduce your kid to the joy of cooking, before they are even able to read the seminal book of the same name. What you’re getting here is impressive: a toaster, with real pop up toast, a blender with safely moving parts, and a number of adorable little plastic food items that are sure to excite the palate of even the most discerning toddler-chefs.
Stainless Steel Pretend Kitchen Toys
Let’s be honest, the brightly colored plastic toys of yesteryear might be a lot of fun, but they are hardly fooling anybody. For a more accurate make-believe culinary experience, young chefs are going to want something that resembles the real thing, and might even prepare them for a lifetime of food adventures, both real and imaginary. This kitchen set by Juboury, the same people behind a number of the most popular new kids toys of the season, will help your kid learn some of the introductory skills that make a chef great, like cutting, straining, boiling, and serving, all while wearing a stylish apron and chef hat that even the local health inspector would approve of.
Huge 125-Piece Toy Food Set
No matter what kind of pretend kitchen appliances or kits that you get for your youngster, it never hurts to add even more realism to the experience by making available a staggering number of different pretend food items to really sell the whole experience. This comprehensive set features everyone’s very favorite foods, only in plastic form. Classics like hot dogs, chicken legs, pizza slices, and corn on the cob are only just the beginning. Exquisite pretend pies and baked goods will provide an elegant dessert, while canned vegetables and boxed baking sets will look great in any toy kitchen pantry.
BBQ Playset With Lights & Pretend Smoke
There’s nothing quite as inspiring as watching Dad work the backyard grill, turning gross raw meat into yummy burgers and brats. Now kids can have their own taste of what it is like to be a grill master, with this impressively detailed BBQ Playset by the imagination experts at LBLA. We love the high-quality plastic material … it’s far sturdier than some competing toys without adding too much to the price tag. Light up burner buttons add a touch of realism that can only be appreciated, while a simulated vapor-based smoke effect is simply one of the coolest things that we have seen on a kitchen toy ever.
Farmer’s Market Color Sorting Set
When it comes to kids and nutrition, one of the most effective ways to getting a child to eat right is by introducing them to wholesome foods in an exciting way. This is perhaps one of the reasons that the Farmer’s Market Color Sorting Set by Learning Resources is one of the highest reviewed food-based toys on Amazon. It not only provides hyper-realistic plastic food toys for any kitchen playset, but it also separates them into distinct colors, which gives toddlers and infants an entirely new way to practice their color & pattern recognition. Five bins labeled by color also mean that this doesn’t need to clutter up the playroom.
Stainless Steel Play Pots & Pans
If you are looking for toys that will maximize your child’s creative and intellectual stimulation, then look no further than a set of play cooking pots. Because they require hands-on stimulation with no real structured rules for how to play with them, pretend kitchen stuff like this great Stainless Pot & Pan Kit from Melissa & Doug is sure to spark the creativity within your own child. An included storage rack means that you can display these beautiful gleaming toys anywhere in the house, but most importantly, it also means that you don’t have to keep them in a disheveled pile like the “real” pots and pans are stored back home.
Ultimate Play Kitchen
Just like it is any aspiring chef’s dream to have a deluxe commercial kitchen fall in their laps, it would be an incredible joy to any child to receive what is ultimately the most complete, realistic, and feature-filled pretend kitchen on our list. The Ultimate Corner Play Kitchen not only has the lights and sounds that you would expect from a real kitchen, but it also utilized realistic colors and design schemes that you would see in a contemporary home kitchen. It comes in both white and espresso, which means that you can choose the version that will look best in the playroom.
Laugh & Learn Food Truck
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably noticed how popular food trucks are becoming in towns and cities across the world. It is no surprise then that food trucks should receive their own pretend counterpart, and that is exactly what Fischer Price has down here with the Laugh & Learn Food Truck. The unique double-sided play experience means that one toddler can man the register and grill while the other can take a seat outside and play the part of the hungry customer. Brightly colored foods, safe moving parts, and even a pretend recycling bin are some of the more unique additions that make this toy great.
Backyard BBQ Goodies
Although they were designed specifically to compliment the Little Tikes Toy barbecue Grill (also featured on this list) the Backyard BBQ Goodies Accessory pack is the perfect addition to any outdoor toy cookware. In fact, even on their own they present a fully immersive backyard culinary experience. Burgers, hot dogs, and corn on the cob is all that anybody really needs for a good time on a summer day. Ketchup, mustard, and plenty of utensils, plates, & napkins set the stage for what is sure to be an awesome make-believe meal. There are 20 pieces in all, and the whole kit & caboodle for less than twenty bucks!
Wooden Fruit Cutting Toy Set
There is no secret around here that we simply love just about any product that comes out of the workshops of Melissa & Doug, one of the premier educational toy manufacturers on the market today. The Fruit Cutting Set is one of their most playful toddler toys yet, providing brightly colored wooden renditions of healthy favorites like cantaloupe, strawberry, banana, & bear. A pretend wooden knife can cut through all of it with ease, exposing playfully detailed interiors that are as mouth-watering as their real-life counterparts. A sturdy wooden basket holds everything in one place while making storage an absolute breeze.
Play Cooking Set With Food & Accessories
The sheer number of different utensils, pots, pans, and food accessories included with the Cute Stone Play Cooking Set is enough to make it more than worth the already modest price, however, it is the smaller details that make this toy really great. For instance, a safe but rotating pizza slicer, spatulas and spoons with hooks for hanging, and a faux stainless steel plastic finish all work together to create a friendly yet realistic cooking set that is sure to excite any food-inspired child or toddler. Then there is the peelable egg and crackable crab, two interactive food toys that are unparalleled among the competition.
Brightly Colored Pretend & Play Cooking Set
There is nothing like bright and vivid primary colors to attract the sustained interest of infants and toddlers, so it is no surprise that so many toys designed for this age group are so bright and playful. This new cooking set from Learning Resources not only looks like something that a toddler would love, but it is all built in a way that ensures its ongoing durability, even against the chaotic nature of a multi-child household. There are ten pieces in total for everything required to whip up a real feast, even if you do have to use your imagination to taste it.
Electronic Toy Stove
One of the most specialized toys on our list also happens to have the greatest amount of detail. The result is a pretend appliance that will capture your child’s attention for far longer than the customary couple of hours on Christmas Morning. The Electronic Toy Stove from Casdon is just like the real thing in almost every way, with an illuminated oven chamber, grilling and cooking sounds, and an included selection of pots and pans all contributing to a highly realistic experience that is certainly going to make you feel hungry. The ceramic cooking spaces even glow red when they’re on, just like the grown-up version in the kitchen!
Deluxe Wooden Cooktop Set
A chef’s kitchen is his or her palace, and as such needs to be kept in pristine order. The aspiring little chef will appreciate the increased level of organizational control offered by the Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Cooktop Set. It features an over-hanging rack for utensil storage, as well as a miniature shelf for pretend oils & spices. Dry-erase menu cards are a unique feature that we have not seen in other cook sets, and the detailed food cutouts manage to me simultaneously playful and realistic, with uncooked images on one side and cooked images on the other. All in all, it’s a mouth-watering imaginative experience for everyone.
Pizza Play Food Set
If you or your little one has ever fantasized about running their very own pizzeria, then look no further than this remarkably comprehensive Pizza Play Food Set by Jogo Jogo. With large, brightly-detailed wooden pizza slices and a packing box that doubles as a pretend oven, the little chef can turn out hot make-believe pies on the fly, with such toppings as olives, onions, & pepperonis. This set goes a bit further than most pretend food sets, however, by offering a priced menu and a small collection of pretend money. This means that imaginative fun can now be paired with the practicing of valuable math skills.
Make-a-Cake Mixer Set
It’s probably safe to say that kids don’t love anything the way that they love cake, so it reason that a pretend baking set would make for the perfect gift for just about any child. This playfully detailed and sturdily constructed pretend mixer comes with everything needed to prepare a pretend pound cake, including a box of mix, a recipe card, and ingredients like eggs and butter. Dump the ingredients into the bowl and then turn the mixer with a red hand crank, creating real motion within the bowl that kids are just going to love. The final product is a beautifully painted wooden cake with a scrumptious looking sheen.
Best Chefs Kitchen Playset
It is hard not to appreciate all the detail that goes into making something as fun, awesome, and inspiring as the Best Chefs Kitchen Playset, another great product by the folks over at Step 2 Products, maker of fine toys for kids and toddlers. The Best Chef Playset features doors that open, utensils that hang, and enough little details and surprises to keep even the dedicated mini-chef busy for hours at a time. We love the bright red recycling bin and the extra educational value that it adds, but our favorite part is the faux-copper cookware that will have your kid feeling like a master home chef in no time.
Stir & Serve Cooking Utensils
Here is another great add-on kit from Melissa & Doug that will increase the value of any pretend kitchen without adding too much to the shopping cart totals. The Stir & Serve Cooking Utensils is a collection of 7 realistic stainless-steel and wood constructed spatulas, spoons, whisks, and more that can fit right in to your existing play kitchen, or function as a great stand-alone toy that proves physical interaction and hand-eye coordination, among other important skills that pretend-play helps provide. Everything in this kit is dishwasher safe, an as usual with Melissa & Doug products, the 100% Happiness Guarantee is a big vote of confidence for an already top-selling product.
Life Sized Pretend Bread Set
The realistic designs of these life-sized pieces of bread are so beautiful that they will get your mouth watering, but more importantly, they provide an exciting and durable form of stimulus for even the youngest kids and toddlers. The croissants, donuts, and dinner rolls are large enough that they do not provide a choking hazard, which is a pretty big concern with pretend food products. What we love about this set is how easily it can turn a play oven into a complete play bakery. It also happens to be one of the most affordable toy food sets that we could find, making it the ideal add-on to any pretend cooking toy.
Cook ‘N Grow BBQ Grill
The best part about the Cook ‘N Grow Grill from the masters at Little Tikes is the cabinet grill base. Not only can it be oriented in two different ways to provide an option of different heights, but it is also a working storage cabinet that all of the parts and pieces can fit into when not in use. With all the different pieces that usually come with pretend cook sets, having a single place to put them all can be a real saving grace for a play room that is already stuffed with awesome toys.
Wooden Sushi Slicing Play Set
Here’s another one of those great toys that you can safely say, “we never had that when I was a kid!” The Sushi Slicing Play Set is the latest in a long line of durable, safe, and stimulating food-based toys from Melissa & Doug. Adorable little sushi rolls are organized by shape and color, and a pair of included chopsticks and soy sauce bowl create a complete experience, just like the one at Mom & Dad’s favorite sushi joint. Melissa & Doug also offer a “personalized option” for only a few bucks more, where they will engrave your kid’s name on the sushi knife, just the pro chefs!
Super Chef Kitchen
Here is a great corner-shaped kitchen unit that will make the perfect addition to any play room. Only a couple of feet wide but jam-packed with features, the Little Tikes Super Chef Kitchen is one of the best values in the business. Opening cabinet doors, electronic cooking sounds, and chrome-style finishes are just the beginning; the faux-brick backdrop and integrated phone & coffee maker make this a truly immersive kitchen experience for children of just about any age. The only thing missing is the pretend food, but luckily, the Super Chef Kitchen would work great with any toy food set you can find.
Primer: Why Kids Cooking Toys Are Great For Intellectual Development
If your mouth isn’t already watering for one of the awesome kitchen toys that we featured on our list, then perhaps it might help to give curious parents an idea of just how awesome food-related toys and play kitchens can be for the growing child or toddler.
In fact, research by The LEGO Foundation (PDF) suggests that pretend play in which the child is emulating a specific social or familial role can be crucial in the ongoing development of a child’s social skills and communication abilities. Pretending to be a chef extraordinaire, for example, can help your child understand the “real” world that they are unknowingly barreling towards.
The physical nature of toddler food toys also is a great booster for the development of personal skills like hand-eye coordination. It can also introduce kids to fruits, vegetables, and wholesome whole foods in a way that will encourage nutritional habits that will hopefully last into adulthood.
Buyer’s Guide: What To Look For In A Kids Cooking Set
The toys we featured here are only a small portion of the wide array of kids cook sets that are available online and in toy stores. In fact, if you really start looking, there are literally hundreds to choose from. How is one supposed to make a decision with that kind of competition out there?
Here’s what we learned when putting our list together. With any luck, you can use this information when trying to decide which kids cook set is best for you and your toddler. Or, you can wait for the end where we will reveal our top pick for the best food toy of the year.
Play Kitchens vs. Toy Food Sets
Generally speaking, there are two types of food toys on this list. The first is the play kitchen. These are immersive and detailed play stations that emulate real grown-up kitchens, only on a scale that kids and toddlers will find much more appropriate. These play kitchens usually feature basics like an oven, sink, and microwave, though more deluxe models might include specialty pretend appliances like espresso machines, blenders, and recycling bins.
In contrast to these play stations is the play food sets. These offer realistic plastic renditions of all sorts of favorite food items, from burgers to boules, pizza to pasta. While these kits can be a lot of fun all on their own, they work best in tandem with play kitchens or play appliances, many of which come with little or no food accessories of their own.
If you are interested in one of the big play kitchens, then make sure to find out what pretend foodstuffs it comes with. It might be a good idea to get a few play food sets to go along with it.
When it comes to food toys, there are three primary construction materials that are most often used:
Plastic is perhaps the most common, and has been one of the most popular materials for any kind of toy for the better part of the century. Plastic food items are inexpensive to produce, so the retail price is usually far less than wood or metal counterparts.
Wood is becoming more and more popular in the pretend kitchen game. Growing toy makers like Melissa & Doug have made it their mission to provide sustainable, natural, and non-toxic wood toys because of how much better they can be for the environment in the correct circumstances. The best part of wooden food, though, is that it is going to last a long, long time.
Stainless Steel has only recently been utilized for kids’ kitchen sets. Realistic, kid-sized renditions of stainless steel cookware has been hitting the market to incredible acclaim. Kids, it seems, know when a toy looks like the real thing! Most stainless steel toys have the added benefit of being dishwasher friendly.
Electronic Lights and Sounds
A fairly new addition to kids cooking toys, real electronic lights and sounds are turning some kids cooking toys into truly immersive fun stations. There is hardly anything more exciting than flicking a knob and seeing the realistic red-glow of the pretend heating elements. While these features can be a lot of fun, they usually add a little bit to the overall price of the product.
Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)
Q: How safe are pretend food items? Can my toddler choke on play food?
A: Choking hazards are a real concern for any toy, much less toys that look exactly like things you are supposed to put in your mouth. For this reason, toy manufacturers have been pretty much on the same page about making play food pieces big enough that they can’t come close to being swallowed, no matter how delicious they might look.
Q: Are stainless steel cook toys safe for actual cooking?
A: Many of the stainless steel cook toys on our list are so realistic that you might be wondering how they will hold up to use in an actual kitchen. While the specific recommendations might vary by product, our advice to you is to keep these toys where they belong, in the toy chest. Even the metal toys were not designed to experience real heating elements, so best steer clear of the grown-up kitchen.
The Plate Up: Our Top Pick Kids Cooking Toys In 2020
Sometimes, all you need to whip up a creative meal is a clean and durable cook station. The best chefs, even the miniature, make-believe ones, can work wonders with even a small collection of the right tools. For this reason, our all-around top pick for kids cooking toys is the Deluxe Wooden Cooktop Set by Melissa & Doug. The wood construction means that it’s going to last a long time, and the compact nature of the set means that it will fit great in any room or play area.
Having said that, we know that some of the best 2020 gift ideas need to be a bit more comprehensive. For this reason, we’re giving a special shout out to the Ultimate Play Kitchen by KidKraft. It is elegant, full-featured, and sure to provide many hours of food-inspired entertainment for boys or girls.
Remember: one day when you’re old and gray, your kids might be cooking real food for you. Best to get them started on a culinary path as soon as possible!