I’m so excited to spice up my daughter’s pretend play this holiday by gifting her various kitchen-themed toys! Let’s face it….as parents we can get bored playing with our children, and chances are if we’re feeling bored, they might be too. So what can we do to fix this? Let’s chat about how I’m going to do it in my own home this holiday season with some fun kitchen-themed toys!

Why should I spice up my child’s pretend play?

Before we get into the how first we need to talk about the why! Did you know that children learn best through play? That’s right. Play might be what your child does for fun, but it’s also the best way for your child to learn about the world around them. Through play, children learn communication skills, social skills, cognitive skills, creativity, emotions, and physical skills.

Pretend play or good old-fashioned make-believe is a high-level of play that teaches children that they can be anything they want! Through pretend play, children learn to work through their emotions, take the perspectives of others, negotiate, have courage, and more. Play really is the primary work of a child.

How can you spice up your child’s pretend play?

Now that we’ve talked about why pretend play is so important, let’s talk about how you can spice it up a little! Kitchen-themed play is one of our favorite ways to engage in pretend play in our house, but I’m going to be honest…we’ve gotten pretty bored with making the same food over and over! This year I’m so excited to beef up our kitchen-themed pretend play with these amazing products from Learning Resources:

Not only are these products vibrant and fun, but they also expose children to a variety of new vocabulary and healthy foods!  

What skills can you build while playing with these?

Feel like your child has all of these new toys, but doesn’t know what to do with them? Here’s a few specific skills that you can build while playing with these!

  1. Kitchen and food vocabulary: Talk about the different food items you have, and see if your child can label them. You can also add an additional garden, kitchen, and food item vocabulary by incorporating other toys and pretending you’re picking the fruit and veggies straight from the garden!
  2. Understanding spatial concepts (in/on/off/out): Work on these early developing spatial concepts by having your child take different foods out of a basket, putting them on a plate, and placing them in a shopping bag.  
  3. Sequential concepts (first/then/next): Practice baking together, and talk about what you need first, second, and last. By practicing this over and over, your child will be able to make their own food in no time!
  4. Requesting: Have your child request for fruits and vegetables.  Depending on how much expressive language they have, they could use a simple word such as, “food” or “more,” or a phrase or sentence like, “I want corn” or “Can I have the apple?”
  5. Use of prepositional phrases: Place different items in different locations and have your child use phrases to describe their locations. Put the frosting on the cupcakes, water in the cup, or the fork next to the plate.
  6. Turn-taking: Develop turn-taking abilities by asking your child if you can have a turn washing the fruits and veggies, serving the food, or eating!

What else can you do to support your child’s pretend play at home?

Model! Children learn best from models and experiences, so it’s only normal that if they haven’t experienced something over and over they might need more exposure. So parents, grab those toys and start playing!  Pretend you’re making a delicious smoothie with the New Sprouts Smoothie Maker, or some cupcakes with the Smart Snacks Shape Sorting Cupcakes.

Engage in parallel play with your child. Parallel play is when you play next to your child without trying to directly influence their behavior. Instead, your child will show interest, watch you, and next thing you know they’ll be grabbing the same toys and copying your every move! How do you do this?  Grab the dishes from the New Sprouts Serve It set and start setting the table, while your child cooks the food from the New Sprouts Multicultural Food Set in their New Sprouts Cook It! pots and pans.

Try following your child’s lead! I know, I know, this isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is so important! By following our child’s lead, we allow them to feel confident and encourage their independence. We also allow them to problem solve on their own while building a trusting connection with them.

Building skills through pretend play doesn’t have to be hard, and it sure doesn’t have to be boring! I know I personally cannot wait to see where my daughter’s imagination takes her when she begins to play with all of these new kitchen toys.