Monday, October 5, 2009

Check out the Gourmet Corner Kitchen, by KidKraft

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing with toy food and pretend kitchens. In kindergarten, the large wooden toy kitchen in our classroom was constantly in use. My own children are magnetically drawn to the big wooden toy kitchens in the preschool and Sunday School classrooms at church.

Pretending to cook holds an almost singular universal appeal for boys and girls, from babies on up to big kids. My 18 month old daughter pretends to stir "yummies," and then says "mmm, I wike (like) it." My 4 year old son pretends to make "krabby patties," and odd concoctions consisting of all green items, like a plate of pears, lettuce, pickles, and so on. My ten year old niece plays restaurant, taking orders and playing chef.

Among the adults I know, playing with toy food and play kitchens are a favorite way to connect with the kids. I have to admit that although I'm sort of at a loss for what to do when my son wants me to play Transformers with him, I rather enjoy "cooking" with him.

When my son was a little toddler, I started poring through the catalogs, looking for the perfect toy kitchen. There were the heavy duty industrial type kitchens found in the education supply catalogs. They're great but huge, and expensive, sometimes adding up to $400-$500 for all the components. Then there were the gorgeous natural wooden kitchens in the natural toy catalogs. Again, they were expensive, many hovering at the $400 range, and as much as I aspired to be a Waldorfy mom, I'm not, and they aren't really our style. Finally there are the plastic kitchens available from the big box stores. They're typically available in the $150 range, which is closer to our budget, but I find them aesthetically lacking, and in my experience, the kids aren't as drawn to them, perhaps because they aren't as realistic.

I've still been looking for just the right kitchen for us: a realistic looking wooden one, in our price range, that we can actually fit in our house. I found several that fit the bill at

I'd particularly like to showcase the new Gourmet Corner Kitchen, by Kidkraft. It's space saving, corner hugging shape would be perfect for my daughter's small bedroom. There are even built in storage cabinets that would hold the food and accessories, keeping everything in one place. The pink and silver color scheme is sort of 50's retro, but the appliances are modern looking, with a water dispenser in the fridge door, and a front loader washing machine. It looks like a real kitchen. There are even curtains on the windows. (I think it would be fun to hang a painting or photo behind the curtains, so it looks like you're really looking out the window.)

There are several things the kitchen DOESN'T have, which I think are a plus. It doesn't have battery operated sounds and lights. That means no batteries to replace, no loud annoying mechanical dings and beeps, and it means your kids have to bring their imaginations with them to play. (This is sort of a soapbox issue for me. I strongly dislike toys that do everything for the kids, rather than engaging them to actually play and think for themselves.) The kitchen is not affiliated with a particular cartoon character, which means that your kiddos aren't going to decide it's too babyish when they outgrow a particular show. (I've seen several character kitchens on the market lately, and wondered about their longevity.)

At $194.95, it's slightly more expensive than a plastic model, and much less expensive than most comparable wooden kitchens. As $200 bucks is still a pretty big chunk of change, (around here, at least,) this is the type of gift I would buy both of my kids as a combined Christmas or birthday gift. (Their birthdays are close together.) Unlike many other gifts, this one would still be around the following year, and subsequent years.

My son saw the picture and said the kitchen "would be perfect for him." Seriously, he did. We're putting one of these kitchens on our wish list.

*Disclaimer: I was compensated for providing my opinion about, and specifically the Gourmet Corner Kitchen. I agreed to do the review because I thought these looked awesome. My statements were unscripted, and my opinions are my own.*

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