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8 best play kitchens to inspire your little chefs

From traditional wooden designs to cool, modern play sets, these toys will have them cooking up a storm

Sarah Dawson
Wednesday 22 September 2021 15:49
<p>There’s a whole host of styles, interactive features and fun accessories on the menu</p>

There’s a whole host of styles, interactive features and fun accessories on the menu

A play kitchen is one of those toys that never goes out of fashion. Great for firing up a child’s imagination, encouraging creative roleplay and flexing those fine motor skills: the right kitchen can provide hours of playtime for toddlers and older kids alike.

From simple set-ups to all-singing, all-dancing designs, there’s a lot to choose from, and a lot to consider when shopping around for the perfect toy kitchen.

A big consideration is space – how much you have at home and how much you’re willing to give over to the play kitchen. Some of the toys we tested took up a lot of room, while others fitted neatly into a corner. We’ve listed the dimensions of every kitchen, so you can check if the size works for you.

Play kitchens are investment toys, designed with years of play in mind, so as a result many don’t come cheap – you’re really looking at £100 and up. They also – with the exception of tabletop designs – require some level of home assembly. Even for the simpler designs, you can expect to spend a good 30 minutes putting the kitchen together with a Philips head screwdriver. Some of the more complex kitchens took us well over two hours to assemble.

Many toy kitchens come ready stocked with pots and pans, play food and all kinds of accessories, but with others you’ll need to factor in buying all of these extras on top of the price of the kitchen. Likewise, some of the kitchens in our round-up are quite simple designs, while others have all manner of buttons, sounds and lights to add to the cooking experience.

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How we tested

Our two and five-year-old testers put these play kitchens through their paces for a month. We looked at quality, design, size, value for money and how much each kitchen engaged our little chefs.

The best kids’ play kitchens of 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Tender Leaf kitchen range: £221,
  • Best for versatility – Janod big cooker reverso: £170,
  • Best for interactive features – Smoby gourmet kitchen:£169.99,
  • Best for travelling – JoJo Maman Bébé wooden table top play kitchen: £35,
  • Best compact play kitchen – Hippychick classic world chef’s kitchen: £119.95,
  • Best mud kitchen – Plum discovery mud pie kitchen: £269.99,
  • Best for vintage style – Kidkraft pink wooden kitchen: £99.99,
  • Best looking play kitchen – Little Dutch kitchen: £109.95,

Tender Leaf kitchen range

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

  • Dimensions: H 91.5cm x W 67 x D 32.5cm

We were immediately won over by the gorgeous pastel colour scheme of this country-style kitchen. Made from sustainable rubberwood and plywood, coloured with non-toxic paint, it’s the kind of toy you’d be more than happy to have on show.

Looks aside, this kitchen is packed with accessories so your child can start playing straight away. The Butler sink (complete with painted plug and plug hole) was big enough for some excellent pretend washing up, and all the oven knobs and microwave dial (a cute bluebird) made clicking sounds, to keep the kids entertained.

The kitchen comes with four wooden hobs, an oven with opening door, two storage pots, three plates, three utensils (which hang neatly away on hooks), three herb chopping boards, a fabric pot holder and tea towel, as well as a two-part magnetic wooden fish and fancy garnishes (none of your bog-standard plastic toast here!) to cook up in the wooden roasting dish. If we’re being picky, we would have liked some pots and pans included too, but there was plenty to spark up our testers’ imaginations.

Assembly was relatively straightforward, with easy-to-follow diagrams, and we were impressed with how sturdy it felt when finished.

The two hand-crafted wicker basket drawers are so handy for tidying everything up at the end of a play session – just chuck it all in there and no one will ever know the chaos hiding inside! They made a nice change from the usual open shelves or cupboard door, and our youngest tester in particular enjoyed emptying them and filling them up.

We liked the addition of the chalkboard on the side of the kitchen, for writing down what’s on the menu, but the biggest hit of all has to be the pump-action, wooden soap dispenser that had our two-year-old tester rounding everyone up to wash their hands – a lot!

Janod big cooker reverso

Best: For versatility

Score: 9/10

  • Dimensions: H 90.5cm x W 55cm x D 32cm

When you’re spending so much money on a play kitchen (and a lot of your time putting it together), the last thing you want is for your child to get bored of it after a couple of weeks. We absolutely love this genius, double-sided kitchen from French brand Janod, which offers lots of different imaginative play opportunities.

On one side of the kitchen you’ve got an oven (complete with clicking knobs), a cupboard, microwave, chrome sink and tap and two hobs – a big hit with our testers who loved pressing the buttons to watch these light up and make “bubbling” cooking sounds (you’ll need two AA batteries for this).

On the other is a clock, shelving unit and washing machine (with opening door). It’s the only kitchen we tested with a washing machine and it went down a storm with our testers who loved stuffing it with blankets – as well as dolls, Lego and plastic corn on the cobs.

Accessory-wise, the kitchen comes with a selection of chrome pans, utensils and an oven glove, although we could have done with some hooks to hang these from once play ended.

We set this up in the middle of the room, so our testers could access both sides at the same time, but you can always keep it in the corner of the room and flip it around regularly to keep the kids interested.

Smoby gourmet kitchen

Best: For interactive features

Score: 9/10

  • Dimensions: H 101cm x W 134cm x D 44cm

It’s fair to say this kitchen blew our little testers’ minds with all of the interactive features, buttons and sounds to explore. Yes, it’s very big, very red and very plastic, but there is absolutely no denying that this is designed with children in mind and it was a kitchen they were drawn to, possibly more than any other.

Assembly is an epic task, mainly due to just how many parts there are to it, but the instructions made it straightforward even if it did take a good few hours. Make sure you attempt this when there are no children around, as there are a lot of small parts that are hard to keep track of with inquisitive kids close by. A heads up – you also need two AA batteries, so make sure you have some handy.

There are so many features to this kitchen it’s hard to know where to start! There’s a fridge, with working ice cube dispenser, espresso machine, sink with working tap (the water goes in a loop from the sink through the tap, keeping mess to a minimum), an oven, a microwave that bleeps and lights up, and a fancy hob that rattles a saucepan to mimic boiling water, to name just a few.

As well as all of this there are plates, coffee cups, coffee pods, glasses, cutlery, cooking utensils, condiments, an assortment of play food (including pasta that changes colour in cold water), and salt and pepper shakers that make a cracking sound when you grind them. Phew!

It’s big, so a great choice if you’ve got more than one child as they can both play happily alongside each other with plenty of space. Our testers liked being able to take turns sitting on the stool (included) at the counter while the other served up food, but the ultimate feature – which they, inevitably, fought over – was the little frying pan and plastic pancake, with a lever that made it flip in the air.

JoJo Maman Bébé wooden table top play kitchen

Best: For travelling

Score: 8/10

  • Dimensions: H 11cm x W 30cm x D 20cm (without backboard)

Whether you’re short of space at home or want a toy that can easily be taken on holiday or to the grandparents, this portable, table-top kitchen fits the bill.

Although compact, this wooden design features most of the details you’d expect from a full-size kitchen. There are two hobs, with large clicking dials, a wooden saucepan, a wooden pot with a lid, three wooden utensils, a wooden clock with moving hands and a line of hooks to hang them all from.

We liked the little touches of a chalkboard, the excellent “clicking” sound the on/off button makes and how you can have it personalised with your child’s name for an extra £7. The best bit has to be how the whole kitchen neatly packs away into a handy carry case once they are finished playing.

Hippychick classic world chef’s kitchen

Best: Compact play kitchen

Score: 8/10

  • Dimensions: H 73.5cm x W 53cm x D 31cm

At just over £100, we think this kitchen is great value for money, especially with all the little extras that came with it.

Simple to put together – it took us around half an hour to assemble – it’s a classic white wooden design (bar the plastic handles and sink), with red and silver details. It’s also nicely compact and should be able to fit neatly into the corner of the lounge, child’s bedroom or playroom.

As well as wooden pots and pans and utensils, the kitchen comes with a colourful selection of wooden veg, stuck together with Velcro, which our testers enjoyed chopping up with the wooden knife, before cooking them up in the pan.

The oven dials all click when turned, and the salt and pepper shakers rattle – much to the delight of our youngest tester. It’s one of the shortest kitchens we tested, and the worktop height was low down enough for our two-year-old to play comfortably. The oven and cupboard doors were easy to open (and actually stayed shut when closed).

The sink is plastic and easily removable, so if you were feeling brave enough to let your kids play at doing the “washing up” with real water you can.

Plum discovery mud pie kitchen

Best: Mud kitchen

Score: 10/10

  • Dimensions: H 116cm x W 160cm x D 70cm

Mud kitchens are having a real moment right now, giving children the chance to get outdoors, get creative and get muddy all at the same time.

Some serious mud pies will be on the menu thanks to this incredible outdoor kitchen from Plum. Made from FSC sustainably sourced wood it’s a two-person job to put together, and took us just over two and a half hours to finish. Thankfully everything is well labelled, and the instructions are really clear, there’s just a lot of work involved – but it’s honestly worth every second.

Not all mud kitchens are made equal, and this is streets ahead of any other one we’ve seen. The wooden hobs, removable brushed steel sink and metal utensil, pots and pans are perfect for mixing up Michelin star mud, water and leaf delicacies, which our five-year-old got stuck into with gusto.

The wipe-clean painting screen helped bring out our testers’ creative sides as they scribbled away with the paintbrush pens included – the built-in step helping our youngest to get involved easily.

There’s also a planter and little garden tools, to encourage mini gardeners, and a wooden wind chime that has already taken a battering from our musical two-year-old (and fared very well so far!).

It’s easily big enough for two or three children to play alongside one another and the structure is sturdy and built to last. We can see this being a hit year-round, whatever the weather and think it’s certainly worth the investment.

Kidkraft pink wooden kitchen

Best: For vintage style

Score: 7/10

  • Dimensions: H 91cm x W 84cm x D 34cm

Serving up some real American retro vibes, this bubblegum-pink play kitchen makes us feel like we’re in a kitsch ’60s time warp, in a good way!

It’s a pretty sizeable kitchen and assembly is a little fiddly (there’s a lot of screwing in required), taking us around two hours to complete single-handedly. But, with a large built-in fridge and freezer, cupboard, oven and microwave, there’s lots of scope for imaginative play here – as well as loads of storage space to pack things away (hooray!).

There are two gas-style hobs, with three twisting dials that make a clicking sound, as well as a removable sink and twisting taps, which got the thumbs up from our testers. Because of the size, we felt this kitchen was better suited to children three and up, but that didn’t stop our youngest tester having fun exploring all the different doors and cabinets.

We would have liked some pots and pans, or kitchen accessories included, but as this kitchen comes in at under £100, we still think it’s great value.

Little Dutch kitchen

Best: Looking play kitchen

Score: 9/10

Dimensions: H 85cm x W 59cm x D 28cm

Pared-back style doesn’t have to be boring, as this gorgeous, kid-approved play kitchen proves. Made from sustainably-produced wood, this mint green kitchen looks great – top marks from us for the Scandi-chic design and how easy it was to assemble – and was loved by our little testers, who had hours of fun cooking up some top-quality dishes of plastic carrot and kiwi fruit, with a side of toy car.

There’s an oven, with opening door, two hobs, three twisty dials that click, a storage shelf, removable stainless-steel sink, wooden pots and pans, and utensils – pretty much everything you need to get started.

Our five-year-old tester liked the clock with moving handles and the salt and pepper shakers, while our two-year-old was all about the cute, woodland-themed oven glove – all lovely touches which really helped fire up their imaginations when playing.

We love how this kitchen comes with extenders, that can be added to the kitchen legs giving it an extra 6cm in height, meaning it can grow with your child and you can really get a good few years use out of the playset.

The verdict: Play kitchens

The excellent quality Tender Leaf kitchen range wowed us with its gorgeous looks and unique style, but really impressed with all the little extra accessories and features, making it a clear favourite with our little testers. The Plum discovery mud pie kitchen, an exceptional choice for outdoor play kitchen fun, deserves a special mention too.

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