Of all the rooms in your home, the kitchen holds the most opportunities for children of all ages to learn about the world around them and develop new skills. Whilst older children can participate in the preparation of family meals, this is obviously not safe for the youngest members of the family. This is where kitchen role play ideas and games can be used to set their imaginations free.
Role play, or dramatic play as it is sometimes called, is so much fun and at the same time it delivers a great learning experience. You can avoid the inherent dangers of a real kitchen by creating a play food preparation station in the play area or even in the garden.
It's even better if you invest in an awesome play kitchen with utensils, sounds and lights. This stunning grey and white Deluxe Kids Wooden Toy Kitchen features all of the design concepts and style of an ultra-modern kitchen in a real home.
Kitchen role play is so flexible that it can be adapted for different ages and can become more sophisticated as your little one grows. Here are some great ideas to get you started.
#1 Putting food away after shopping
Putting away grocery shopping may be a task that parents dread but for children, it is simply fascinating! Why not take it in turns to play the role of the delivery driver or pretend that you are travelling to the shop or market (in another room perhaps) to pick it up.
Once the food arrives in the play kitchen the real fun starts. Younger children will simply enjoy taking the play food out of the box and putting it anywhere in the kitchen. This helps with their fine motor skills as they pick up the food and open the play cupboards. Older children can learn to make choices about which foods will be stored where and this gives them a sense of independence. They could even start to learn which foods are stored in freezers, refrigerators and cupboards.
Buying food in recyclable crates without plastic packaging teaches children from a young age about the importance of purchasing in an environmentally responsible way. The Le Toy Van Honeybee market wooden crates are a perfect example and can be purchased containing vegetables, fish, baked goods, eggs or dairy products.
#2 Preparing food for cooking
You can set the foundations for a lifetime of healthy eating if you encourage your child to enjoy and value the process of preparing food. Again, this opens up the opportunity for you to take on different roles. Although, you can forget about the role of Head Chef because you have no hope of being awarded that job!
Food preparation covers so many skills but is also a highly creative process. Here are some ideas:
- Preparing vegetables- This could be peeling, chopping, grating, slicing and cooking. There is no reason for very young children to miss out. They could use this safe wooden cutting set that gives the experience of vegetable preparation without any of the dangers.
- Following recipes. For younger children, this could simply be putting butter on bread but for older children, it could be combining ingredients to make more complex dishes.
- Cooking. Many play kitchens have hobs, an oven and a microwave so children can learn about the concept of cooking in a fun way. The need for food to be cooked for a certain number of minutes teaches them about time as well as food safety.
#3 Preparing a dinner party for family or soft toys
Dramatic play is taken to another level when others are involved. If you don't have any family members or pets who are willing to co-operate with this activity, stuffed toys are an excellent standby. They stay where you put them and are always complimentary about what they have been served!
The pretend meal that your little one decides to create can be as complex or as simple as their abilities allow. It could be a grand affair that requires formal dress, a BBQ, a picnic or a birthday party. It could be an open house or an invitation-only event!
#4 Restaurant or take away service
A play restaurant attached to a play kitchen presents a wonderful opportunity for children to recreate what they have seen in real restaurants and cafes. The role play in this scenario centres on giving orders and fulfilling them. Older children can even meet and greet, show guests to their tables, hand out the menu (which they can prepare earlier using pictures or words) and they can write orders on a pad.
Kids can then quickly transform into the Chef (perhaps with a change of clothes) to prepare the delicious meal. If parents want to get involved, they can pretend to be customers, sit at a table and, of course, pretend to eat the delicious food that the talented cook has created for them.
If toy cars or bikes are allowed in the house, they can be used to collect a takeaway meal from the kitchen. Drive-throughs, where the food is handed to you in your 'car', are always very popular!
#5 Displaying food for sale
Creating a food shop display and then selling the food to customers is another useful extension to kitchen role play. Your little one can learn a lot about money by creating price tags and setting out the food on a little table.
This could be a pizza shop, a cake shop, a vegetable shop or anything else that your kid decides. This game is particularly good for practising numeracy skills.
How do play kitchens help children's development?
There is plenty of research that shows that role play or dramatic play is very good for children's development. Imaginative play is now identified as a vital part of normal child development. Amongst the benefits of dramatic play are language usage, organisation, cognition, self-regulation, flexibility and creativity.
It is now encouraged in the classroom environment and, above all, is great fun for kids of many ages. Creative play together with sensory play lay the foundations of the skills needed for literacy and numeracy later in life. Kitchen role play supports social skills and vocabulary, gives older children an opportunity to use literacy and numeracy skills and improves the concept of time and time-telling. It also helps them make sense of the world and gives them the satisfaction of completing a task. It could even be used to help a fussy eater engage with a wider range of food.
How do you role play with kids?
Having selected your kitchen-based scenario to act out, start by appointing roles. Who is going to be the chef, who is the customer, who is the server? Start acting out the scene but let your child be in control of what happens. If they get stuck, make a couple of suggestions but always talk to your kids about what they are doing and perhaps ask a few questions.
When the game is over, provide positive feedback to older children. Tell them what a great job they did and ask what they would like to play in the kitchen next.
What are the most sustainable play foods?
Many families would love to avoid plastic or other materials that are not sustainable or contain artificial chemicals. Reusable wooden toys are one option such as the Tender Leaf Fruit Basket Wooden Play Food made from sustainable rubberwood. You can use real food but this can get a bit messy if it is not cleared away properly. Although uncooked rice and uncooked pasta may be okay for kids that are old enough to understand that they cannot eat them.
You could also make your own salt dough from plain flour, table salt and water following this easy recipe.
The need for pretend play in child development - Scientific American
How to make salt dough - BBC