Homegrown or store bought, play kitchens are a perennial favorite for the preschool set and beyond. They are big winners in the "big present" category, but what's the best way to stock one for your child to enjoy? Here are a few things to consider. Work with what you have. Your own wooden spoons, utensils and dishes can be a great addition to a play kitchen. Cleaned out food containers can take on a second life in a play fridge (think egg cartons, yogurt containers and berry baskets).
Does your child have a favorite food, kitchen activity or appliance? We only realized how much my son loved the idea of a microwave when we discovered play food "cooking" in the compartment of our Danish secretary desk. When it was time to buy a play kitchen, we made sure it had a microwave. If your child is intrigued by your percolator, add a play coffee pot to the mix. If they love baking with you, make sure that you have mixing bowls, oven mitts, cookie sheets and play baked goods.
Consider size and realism. Kids are perfectly happy playing with pots and pans, but real pots and pans won't fit into their petite play kitchens. Realistic pieces like IKEA's Duktig cookware set are ideally scaled for play and storage, and children relish using items just like the grownups'.
Look for versatility. Cutting food like this set from Melissa & Doug gets lots of action in the play kitchen, and cutting it is a great motor activity. The pieces of fruit can be sectioned and used to promote concepts like quantity.
What have been the best additions to your play kitchen?
(Image: Flickr member Lin T licensed for use under Creative Commons)