One place where imitation and imagination meet is the play kitchen! But, are play kitchens Montessori aligned? If so, what is the best Montessori play kitchen?
Are play kitchens “Montessori?”
There are different answers to this. The more popular school of thought is that toy kitchens, when used for imaginative play, have no place in a Montessori home.
Play kitchens, even ones left unmodified for practical use, can absolutely be utilized in a Montessori home. Imaginative play in a Montessori play kitchen occurs in a productive way after a child has been exposed to real life cooking activities.
They simply take that real life experience and experiment with the concepts on their own, at their play kitchens. It’s actually very wonderful to watch.
I feel confident in my assessment that play kitchens are in fact Montessori aligned.
A Montessori mom’s experience with play kitchens
We were gifted our first play kitchen around my daughter’s first birthday and it was a thing of wonder! If I had a dime for every make-believe dish I was served, I’d be a rich woman.
It was a traditional plastic kitchen we were first gifted, and we purchased some wooden food to go along with the plastic food that was gifted with it. I’m a big believer in free-play, as opposed to adult-led play, so the dishes she whipped up were all her own.
Spices were shaken out of wooden blocks and everyone was required to take a small taste before she served the final dish.
Her kitchen; her rules!
Perhaps it’s because she had always been included in cooking meals by myself and her father that she knew what ingredients would go well together. I’m sure my husband allowing her to raid the spice cabinet and learn every delicious taste and smell didn’t hurt, either!
We were also served plenty of banana and onion soup served to us, as well. Par for the course!
Of course, she did not prefer her play kitchen to real life kitchen activities. It was not always possible or preferable to have her involved in meal preparation, however.
Her play kitchen serve her imagination well and she was able to have the freedom to prepare anything she liked, whenever she liked. That’s a beautiful thing.
Should I get a plastic or wood play kitchen?
Our first play kitchen was wonderful. It was completely plastic (which I hate for environmental reasons, by the way), but it worked well for what it was needed for.
When I started learning about Montessori and “Practical Life” activities, but prior to obtaining my Montessori education, I became more interested in different types of play kitchens and how they could be used functionally.
What is the best brand of play kitchen?
I was pleasantly surprised to find that IKEA had 3 very wonderful Montessori play kitchen options.
The DUKTIG kitchen is the most popular play kitchen for Montessori homes, as it can be used for pretend, semi-functionally, or modified to be a fully functional food preparation work space for kids.
It has all the standard features and it is durable and should last through a few kids, or be able to be gifted or resold in pretty good condition.
One of the most popular hacks I’ve seen with the Ikea DUKTIG mini-kitchen is removing the play stove and replacing it with a cutting board.
Something else that makes this play kitchen so great is that you can actually hook it up to water, thereby making the sink functional!
In our house, we have left the kitchen alone so the kids can use their imaginations OR wash and chop vegetables. We use the “microwave” as storage for our cloth napkins and we use the cabinet space below the sink to store our child-size dishes and silverware.
This helps give my kids a sense of autonomy when it comes to meal preparation. If they need a bowl for snacks, it’s right there where they can reach it.
Glasses for water? Right there. It’s convenient for everyone!
Other Ikea Montessori play kitchen options
The SPISIG play kitchen and the NYBAKAD mini-kitchen are two other options that work well for function and/or play in Montessori homes. Neither of these has the storage or the capacity for modification that the DUKTIG play kitchen has.
These two option are smaller, however, which is optimal for those who are short on space or who are looking to put their mini-kitchen in a nook within the family kitchen. They are also a bit less expensive, which is a selling point for the majority of us parents.
Whatever your goal is in purchasing a kitchen for your child, you are making a great choice. Kids are going to grow up to be adults, and adults have to cook.
So, it’s a good idea to get their imaginative juices flowing with a quality Montessori kid’s kitchen!
And don’t forget the food! Please, especially if there is any imaginative play going on, which there likely will be!
What do you do when your kids are bored with their play kitchen? Believe it or not, there is another option from tossing or donating it!
My kids are bored with their play kitchen
This is the real magic of a play kitchen They can be repurposed for outside play.
Google the term “mud kitchen” and prepare to have your mind blown. This is an idea that lends itself well to the concept of loose parts play.
If you want to turn your child’s play kitchen into a mud kitchen, you don’t have go all-out and get fancy with it. Just put the kitchen and the pots and pans outside in close proximity to a water source and observe the wonderment!
So, get your back mat ready, stack some towels by the door, and prepare yourself for summer months filled with mud pies and fun!
Do your kids enjoy play kitchens? If so, what kind do you have and what is its purpose (imaginative or functional)?
Cheers and don’t forget to subscribe!