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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, December 09, 2018 1:00 am

Play kitchens, other household toys have stood test of time

JESSICA GARVIN | The Journal Gazette

Educational toys have always been popular with parents over the years. Having a component of learning during play can be an important tool in helping children grow. STEM toys have especially grown in popularity as employers emphasize these skills in the workplace.

But one educational toy that has stood the test of time is the play kitchen and all of the fake food that goes with it. I remember how much I loved my play kitchen as a child in the 1980s, and how often I'd interrupt my parents' newspaper reading and television watching for the newest food creation I had "cooked." My kitchen had a sink, a cupboard, an oven and a fridge, and would look decidedly dated now, but it was a cherished part of my childhood memories.

Kitchen sets today have gotten considerable updates, of course - now many of them have moveable parts like faucets and oven controls, as well as lights and sounds such as sizzling or timers. Last year, my 3-year-old niece wanted a Hello Kitty grill, complete with fake meats and grilling tongs. I've seen play microwaves and even a pretend espresso set from Imagination Generation. Nothing like teaching kids early about an important part of the working world - the morning caffeine fix.

A simple Google shopping search for "food playset" will return pages upon pages of various fake food playsets. Many of them feature a variety of foods, but you can also get playsets that cater to breakfast lovers, organic fruits and veggies proponents, future pizza makers or cake bakers, or even the tiniest sushi chefs. Becker's School Supplies even features ethnic foods playsets on their website.

Melissa & Doug's "Let's Play House!" line of toys takes this playacting one step further, with playsets including a washer and dryer combo, a mop/broom set, vacuum cleaner, dishwashing set and household cleaning set.

Toys like these not only prepare kids for future chores but also tap into a vital part of a toddler's need for imitation play. Copying what young kids see their parents and older siblings do makes them feel important and a part of the household. It also helps them develop abilities from language to social skills, according to an online Parents magazine article.

So if you are unsure of what to buy your young child this holiday season, consider toys that will encourage your kids to learn to cook, wash or sweep. These toys can actually be really fun for kids, and will let you take joy in watching them grow and learn important life skills.