9 Unexpected Benefits of Unstructured Kitchen Play

9 Unexpected Benefits of Unstructured Kitchen Play

Know how to maximize the benefits of kitchen play for kids with simple ideas

On her 1st birthday, my daughter got her first set of kitchen toys.

Her face lit up as she opened a big bag filled with pretend wooden scoops, cups and saucers, pretend food … It was a complete set.

Meanwhile, I shook my head as I imagined all the mess that I would be cleaning up.

Fast forward to seven years (and two kids) later, that kitchen set remained a favorite in my kids’ playtime.

They just love it when I let them bring out their kitchen toys and I have learned to embrace it as well, mess and all.  

Kitchen play for kids is one of the oldest and most popular forms of pretend play.

But aside from being such a fun activity for kids of all ages and gender, did you know that playing with kitchen toys can also help in your child’s development? 

Key Takeaway: Play kitchen is one of the most loved pretend play. As the kids see adults preparing and cooking food on a daily basis, they see their pretend play experience more realistic.

What is Pretend Play?

Pretend play refers to a range of activities involving symbolic (like when you use a banana as a phone) and socio-dramatic play (where children can play in a group and take on different roles).

Pretend play is essential to early childhood development and has so many benefits to baby brain development .

Let us enumerate them in the context of the play kitchen.

Benefits of Pretend Play through Kitchen Play for Kids

Cognitive skills

Promotes creativity and problem-solving 
Children are encouraged to explore and experiment when problems arise in the “kitchen.” For example, they learn to substitute objects for missing ingredients.

Sharpens numeracy skills
Counting, weighing and sorting ingredients in a play kitchen can help a child grasp mathematical concepts like numbers, measurements and time.

Boost language and literacy skills
Playing with other kids or having “tea party” with an adult teaches a child to use narratives and widen his vocabulary. He can understand the meaning of “hot,” “cold,” “cook,” or “wait” through pretend play.

Develops executive function skills 
Executive function skills are a set of mental skills that a person needs in order to manage and achieve his goals. These include planning, having a working memory, problem solving and self-regulation. 

Executive function is an important skill that needs to be cultivated even in the early stage of baby brain development.

Pretend play helps promote executive function skills by providing a setting where your child can practice his ability to focus, follow rules and self-regulate. For example, they need to use their oven mitts, and be very careful when touching or baking something hot.

They also use their planning skills to sort and organize the plates or utensils they would use in the play kitchen.

Key Takeaway: From food knowledge to language and number literacy, play kitchen is a great source of basic learning in a fun way.

Social and Emotional Skills

Promotes social interaction
Children learn to cooperate and collaborate when playing with other children or adults. Also, by pretending to be someone else or take on a different role (like that of a cook), they can develop a better understanding of other people, increasing their empathy. 

Helps them cope
Pretend play gives children an outlet to deal with their stress and the tools to manage their emotions and cope when these pretend situations arise in the future. 

Builds confidence and encourages independence
Wouldn’t it be awesome if you raise a child who knows her way in the kitchen? And letting her play with kitchen toys trains her for basic life skills that make her more independent and sure of herself.

Key Takeaway: Play kitchen can develop personality traits that can guide a child growing up, such as independence and self-regulation.

Other developmental benefits

Helps children explore their senses
Pretend play promotes sensory play, and one of the best ways to stimulate your child’s senses is to let him grind herbs, touch rice and explore different colors of food using his kitchen toys.

Play kitchen also involves a lot of activities using the hands, so expect your child’s fine and gross motor skills to be sharpened as he picks up small objects and uses his kitchen toys.

Builds basic skills
Whether it’s as simple as buying groceries, setting the table or pouring water into cups, these skills are important for your child to learn the concepts of cleaning, preparing food and even table manners.

Develop a positive attitude towards food
As you play with your child, model good and healthy food behavior such as encouraging them to “serve” you healthy food, picking fruits instead of sugary options and commenting on how delicious they “taste.” Your kid will definitely pick up on your good food choices and try to imitate them.

Key Takeaway: Even when our world today is so advanced, children still need to learn basic life skills.

What age is best for kitchen play for kids

Pretend play can begin at 12 months were your child has learned to imitate, but kitchen play for kids is better suited at age two. At this age, they are more mobile and can engage in exploratory play (put pretend food on a plate, or set up a tea party).

At this age, kids can also practice their planning, negotiation and self-regulation skills at a play kitchen setup. 

Facilitate learning through kitchen play for kids by:

  • Modeling the action and behavior to your kid. Show him how to set the table, or mix the batter. 
  • Remember to include kitchen rules like washing hands before you prepare food and using mitts when handling hot food. 
  • When he’s ready, let him do it himself and allow him to be creative. Let him mix and match the ingredients and make his own recipe. Encourage him to take the lead while you become his assistant.
  • Don’t worry if the outcome isn’t as good as you expected. Playing is a process-oriented activity so the means are more important than the result. 

While kitchen play for kids has so many awesome benefits, remember the most important thing is that your child is having fun!

So bring out those kitchen toys and create wonderful memories together. 

Play kitchen is just one form of pretend play, here are pretend play ideas you can try with your little one. Find out another great tool for pretend play, the Fort Building Kit!