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Play Kitchens for Pretend Play

by Tiffany in Natural Toys

Wooden play kitchens used to be the norm decades ago but in recent years plastic has become the favorite.  Not only were the wood ones greener, they were durable and fun.  In today’s plastic society, we are plagued with plastics everywhere—even in our children’s toys.  There are alternatives; you just have to look for them!

Remember the pretend pancakes and cupcakes you made for your parents on your own kitchen set?  Your child can have hours of fun doing this too and it really is a very creative and imaginative type of play…the best kind. My 4 year old daughter got a wooden play kitchen last Christmas and we put it down in the basement playroom. Unfortunately I think the location wasn’t that good because she hardly ever played with it. Recently I had hubby move it up to her bedroom and we haven’t seen her since, LOL. She spends hours playing in there now and thanks to the wonders of sound monitors I get to hear every word of that delicious play while I am in my office. Occasionally she allows me to stop by her “restaurant” and order some food but then she is on to serving her dolls again.

What’s funny is they are now mostly called “retro” play kitchen sets so when you’re searching, use those keywords!  We have a pink retro play kitchen (see above). These desirable wooden kitchen sets are good for our environment and some models are enhanced by other green-friendly products—they have cloth in them as well instead of plastic inserts for stove tops burners or faucet fixtures.

With the holiday season upon us, perhaps it’s time to turn back time and give our children the durability and safe kitchen toys we played with as children before the inevitable cheap plastic sets came along.  Many toy manufacturers are concerned about our environment as well and are producing sustainable wooden toys painted with earth safe dyes. After all, after your child is done with their plastic kitchen set, if you can’t recycle it to another child, it will end up in a landfill for centuries.

It should not matter that it’s cheaper or cost effective for a toy manufacturer to produce plastic toys, their children and grandchildren play in this world too and you’d think they be worried about it—but don’t fret—the demand for more green toys is being heard by some manufacturers.

Wooden building blocks and wooden play refrigerators, sinks and, stoves are seen more and more on the market each day and we have to make the conscience choice to purchase these products, especially at this time of the year; the holiday season.

Another option you have for purchasing wooden play kitchen sets it looking for them at online auctions where you may find them much cheaper than new ones.  Or, go to a thrift store or yard sale and see if you can find a set for sale. My town’s Craiglist has a few.

Artisan craft fairs are a great place to find unique wooden toys and if you don’t see want you want, you can bet the wooden artisan will be happy to make it for you; wooden artisans are proud of their craftsmanship and want to pass it along to children especially.

If we don’t teach our children now, in the early years, how important it is to own and play with green wooden toys, what will their children end up with to play with?  In any event, if you’ve had a wooden kitchen set as a child, you remember and know what we’re talking about, so get out there and make the extra effort to search for a wooden play kitchen set for your child this holiday season—make a difference!

Here are some of my favorites:

Red Retro Kitchen by Kidkraft – This is kinda, sorta what my daughter has but she has the bigger model and in pink. This is a one piece unit too and my daughter has separate pieces. I have seen this one in person though and it is CUTE. The design is very 1950s which I love. They also have a Prairie Kitchen set that is pretty darn cute too. The set is wood but I haven’t got any info about the finish and it does have a few plastic pieces.

My Creative Cookery Club– The all-in-one wood unit has an oven with a see-through door, cupboard or refrigerator, cook top, sink, and utensil rack. Velcro’d veggies and bread, pots and pans, and the essential salt and pepper shakers are included too. I love the natural wood and green coloring.

Maxim Wooden Kitchen Center – I just love the curtain and the rods for hanging towels. It has a very homey feel to it. Not a fan of the microwave but it is still cute. And it is blue so boys won’t be intimidated by this one.

A BEEautiful Hearth– by Camden Rose. Now this is all natural but very pricey. The kitchen is crafted with the warmth and durability of solid cherry with walnut and birch accents. Its construction cannot be compared to anything else on the market. While most play kitchens contain screws and button plugs, the Camden Rose Hearth is constructed internally with pocket-hole joinery leaving it blemish free and fine-furniture solid. The kitchen includes a stove, sink, cupboard and oven with a “see what’s cookin'” window. It has a non-toxic beeswax finish.

Check out my green toys page for some wood/cloth food options.

  • Darelina

    Hi there. I am enjoying your blog. Wanted to share on this particular post what we did at our house since we can’t afford to purchase a store bought item. My husband has access to alot of cardboard boxes at his job, since it has a large inventory warehouse. He brought several good size boxes home. We used one to make a stove, by cutting a door into the side, placing a shorter version of the same box inside (as the oven rack) and putting a twisted tape handle on the outside of the cut out door for easy opening. Then we made four cardboard disks and glued them to the top, drew the elements on them and placed a backboard on with drawn on knobs. Am thinking I may still add buttons to the back to be able to twist them. Then, we made her a refrigerator taking a box of the same size as the stove and cutting the two short flaps off. The longer flaps became the doors. We fastened a button on either side and it stays fastened closed with a small rubber band. We then decorated the outside of the fridge with “magnets” so it looks like the big fridge in our kitchen. The sink is made by cutting a small box in half and then placing a piece of cardboard down the center to divide it. She already had a little table. We added a few small items like measuring spoons, a set of metal measuring cups that look similar to our cooking pots, purchased a little metal wisk, a 1/2 doz. mini muffin tin, a mini pie pan and loaf pan and voila! She loves it!

  • Darelina! what a great idea! thanks for sharing. I wish I could here more ideas like that one. Sadly, we can not afford a lot of natural wooden products. Even the ones on our craiglist are listed at ridiculous prices. If it weren’t for my mom, who knows we prefer wooden items, we wouldn’t have any! thanks again for your comment!

  • Robyn

    We’re getting my son the KidKraft deluxe kitchen. It irks me that kitchens are put in the “Girls Toys” categories at most online storefronts. Mario, Emeril, Flay, Morimoto – all men, why do we stereotype kitchens as girly?
    For people looking for wood at a decent price, try We’ve been very happy with their selection and prices.

  • I’m seeing more and more wooden ones at the toy stores – and I saw a really cute wooden washing machine yesterday, that was just too cool.

    We’re really lucky with play kitchens. My kids are playing with wooden appliances that my great-grandfather made for my mother and her cousin. Then they were mine when I was a girl, and now they are my kids’. Would plastic have held up to all of that?

  • what a cool thing to have items that your grandparents played with. My aunt still has the wooden kitchen her kids played with in hopes that her grandkids will someday use it. definitely less waste since plastic toys don’t hold up like that

  • grrrl

    You can find all kinds of great felt food as well as instructions for making a cardboard kitchens on!

  • Sharon

    Last Christmas we bought our boys the Melissa and Doug Kitchen and although it is cute it is very poorly made! We have called the company 3-4 times to complain and they have never responded. The doors came off, putting it together was awful and the plexiglass in the oven door has separated. I do not recommend this kitchen and just wanted to warn anyone who may be interested.

  • Tiffany,
    Haven’t been here in a while to leave comments. Sorry. I’m looking for a wooden kitchen for my daughter, Great choices you have. I’m thinking of getting the one from Natural Pod. I like how it looks and you know I’m really trying to get things that will last for generations verses ending up in the landfill. Just another choice for green toy shopping…not that your suggestions aren’t great because they are.

  • Moran

    Guidecraft and Melissa & Doug both have great wooden kitchen options. Guidecraft is particularly green as it uses recycled rubber tree plants. Check out some of their products on my website I’d be happy to ship anything from either of these lines!

  • I got this one for DS for Xmas (from my store):

    He loves to pretend cook. I can’t wait to give it to him!

  • Heather

    HI my name is Heather and I have been looking all over the place for this Pink Retro Play Kitchen by KidKraft and they are sold out everywhere. Its my daughters only christmas present she wants and now I am scared I wont be able to find it. I have been saving money to get this item and I dont want to break her heart. Is there any way you can get it or find it . If you can help me I will greatly appreciate it and recomend you to everyone I come into counter with who has kids. This will make a whole family’s Christmas one of the best ever if you can send me this Play Kitchen Thank you soooo much for your time and any help you can give me.sincerely, Heather, phone # is 1-512-930-3971

  • I’m considering buying the red retro Kidkraft kitchen for my daughter, but I’m concerned about the chemicals that might be in the paint & fiberboard. I see that your daughter’s kitchen is also made by Kidkraft. Do you know anything about toxin levels in Kidkraft products? I also heard someone mention a strong off-gassing smell – did you encounter this?
    Thanks for the advice!

  • SkylarKD,

    As mentioned in the post I have no info about the finish. I did not however have any issues with smell or off-gassing.

  • Mader

    Any info on all the products in the photo? Would like to re create the room!