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I'm in the hunt for a play kitchen for my almost 2-year old
daughter. There is an abundance of options out there, and
the reviews online are mixed, so I'm looking to hear of
options that parents have really liked (or disliked). We
want something that is:
- made of wood
- sturdy and made to last (at least a couple years of
- fairly neutral - not super bright or all pastel colors
- affordable/reasonable for what you get ($200-$350)
- mid-sized (3-5 feet wide or so)
Thanks in advance!
We bought the Kidcraft Wooden Kitchen 6 years ago when my
son was small. It is the best toy we have ever bought,
hands down. Not only is it well-put together an solid, its
designed nicely so 2 kids can play at it at the same time.
It survived daily use by my son from the ages of 1.5-5 (no
kidding - daily use) and has been used by his sister daily
for the better part of the last 2 years.
We were lucky enough to have a KidKraft-brand 'vintage
kitchen' setup handed down to us, and it has been awesome.
Ours is red, but they also make them in white and pink. It
has lots of cabinets/shelves for storage, knobs for turning,
and a phone (so much for being 'vintage') that my son has
had many conversations on. It survived 2 children before it
got to us and is still in GREAT shape. The price for a new
one is totally reasonable - I almost had a heart attack when
we saw the price for the Pottery Barn Kids one, which is
very similar. Have fun!
We are the third family to inherit our Plan Toys Kitchen.
Ours is unpainted wood, and I can't find anything quite like
it online, but that was important to us. Here's a link to
Call Plan Toys and request a catalog. Just wanted to make
sure you had at least two choices. Local Librarian
My daughter is almost 2 and we would like to get her a toy that
will last and grow with her. We were considering getting either a
train table or a play kitchen. We don't have the space for both
so which one in your experience will hold her interest longer?
She always looks forward to playing with train tables at stores
and seemed equally interested in the play kitchen at her
grandparents house who we see only a couple of times a year since
they live on the East Coast.
Play kitchens can be easily improvised, and (in our experience)
were just as much enjoyed as the ''real thing.'' Train tables
are great because they make it more comfortable to reach and
move the trains around (as opposed to laying out temporary
tracks on the floor), so the kid will usually stay at it longer.
In either case, however, be prepared for the kitchen or the
trains to be largely ignored for the majority of the time! :-)
These toys never seem to be as compelling in one's own home as
they are somewhere else - that's a huge part of the attraction.
My daughter is a little over 2 and has a small train table and a small figure 8 style
train set (not a big table). She LOVES them both. I would hate to choose. She is
probably more emotionally attached to the train (she loves Thomas) but gets more
pretend play enjoyment out of the kitchen. I know you say you don't have enough
room for both, but maybe you could get a small kitchen (we have the French
Kitchen by Educo) and a small train set that could be put away in a box when done.
That way you can see which ones she likes better before investing in anything too
big. Both can be expanded upon over time as she expresses an interest. But if I had
to choose I would do the kitchen because of the imaginative play options.
- Mine cooks food for Thomas
I would go for the play kitchen. Train tables are not really all that great to own--
sure they're nice in other places, but when your child really wants to build cool stuff
with the train tracks and such, the table is just too limiting. It is way better to build
trains on the floor where you can have the track be as big or little as you'd like, and
not have to fit in a rectangle.
My kids LOVE trains, and still play with them, but I'm glad we never got a table...
We also have a tiny play kitchen (a little sink and a little stove) that they love...
if I were to get it over again, we'd go for this one:
Ours is very simple and can be packed away in the closet when we want to mix it
up. But it is well worth it! We got our small play kitchen from
fuseaction=category.display&category_ID=80 but I don't know if they carry it
You might consider something like Melissa & Doug's activity table.
It's great for trains, but when trains get boring the table can
be used for play-doh, or art, or even kitchen play....and it
keeps all that stuff off the floor! We have a very small play
kitchen and this table, and if I had to choose one, the table
My daughters, ages 6 and 8, still use our play kitchen pretty regularly. We got it when
the older one was 2. The way they use it has changed over the years, but they still
seem to find creative things to do with it, even at this age.
Maybe get the play kitchen now, and then get trains later, but just keep them in a box.
My kids are happy to play with trains on the floor, anyhow.
I vote for the kitchen
Go with the play kitchen! We have both (our kids are ages 7, 4
and 4 months) and though the train table has been a hit, it is
a phase. Our 7-yr old would never play with it again. Our 4-yr
old barely plays with it now. However, the kitchen has been
played with since we got it. It's the one thing that is popular
at play dates as well.
Get the kitchen. Train tables are too limiting - my son prefers
to build tracks on the floor as you can get more creative with
shapes, go under things, etc. The tables are very limiting.
Kitchens on the other hand, are great fun and take up less
space. My twin girl and nieces can play with them for hours.
Play kitchen! My 21-month-old finds playing with trains not that
much fun -- gotta keep them on the track, and that's hard.
But she loves her play kitchen! All sorts of things you can do
To me, the balance is in favor of the kitchen for two reasons: 1)
they take up less floor space, and 2) train tables are readily
available in public places like Barnes & Noble. We bought a play
kitchen for our daughter when she was 18 months old. She still
plays with it quite a bit at 3, and I can see potential for it to
continue. How she plays with it has changes as she's grown.
She loves train tables, too, but it has worked for us to go visit
train tables instead of having one at home. The downside of
relying on public train tables is that there aren't always that
many cars available, and sharing can be an issue depending on the
child's age and mood.
My daughter had both, a train table and a play kitchen. (The
train table we already had from our older son.) She, too, always
played with trains in stores (still does at age 9), but didn't
play with them too much at home. I have to say she got way more
years of use out of the play kitchen. She and her older brother
would play trains, but there was only so much they could do with
them. The kitchen offered a lot more interactive, creative, and
role play opportunities. She would play house or restaurant. She
would make a set of menus, then get a pad of paper, a pen, and an
apron, take our orders or those of our guests when we had friends
over, then make up the orders with her fake food from her
kitchen, and serve us. Sometimes her brother would play the
short-order cook for her. It was really funny. This went on for
years. She did an amazing job of emulating what goes on in a
restaurant. Then sometimes, she'd just hang out with her kitchen
pretending to make food for her stuffed animals. We eventually
moved it outside and because it was plastic, it held up well out
there. This toy got serious use for 4 or 5 years, which I think
is pretty darned good. The train table got kind of boring for them.
We have a boy so I can only speak to that, but we have both and
he enjoys both but he plays with the train table far more than
the kitchen. However, this I'm sure is related to placement
since the kitchen is crammed into a corner of our real kitchen
and the train table is open in the living room. Still, he loves
trains anyway. Could just be a boy thing.
Trans vs kitchens
Based on our experience, I would definitely go with the play
kitchen. Our now 7 year old daughter loved playing with the
train tables at stores and was a big Thomas fan between the
ages of 2 and 4. In reality, though, some of her best train
set-ups were just done on the floor.
At the same time, we started acquiring a few play kitchen
pieces which she played with then, and STILL plays with them a
lot! I find that her friends also gravitate toward the kitchen
stuff. They play restaurant a lot, or are in the
kitchen ''cooking'' when I'm cooking, feeding their baby dolls,
I got a play kitchen for my daughter when she was 2 and she
still plays with it at 5 and a half. We've never had a train
table so I can't comment on that.
I vote kitchen
I was a train and play kitchen-loving girl. Suggest you get the
trains and track (and accessories) for your daughter,
improvising the train table or skipping it, thus leaving room
for the play kitchen too. Some tips so that the trains don't
take up so much money or space: A train table is more quickly
outgrown than the trains & track. For my train-loving son, we
found a free used coffee table the same size as a train table
and used it as our living room coffee table, getting rid of a
glass topped one that was a hazard (cut my arm badly getting
rid of it too). We put bins under it just like the $195 train
table, only our bins were wicker baskets which looked nicer
under the table in our small living room. They don't need lakes
painted on the table -- you could paint that or paint chalkboard
paint on it or just leave it wood as we did. It does lack sides
but that never bothered us. We received nice hand-me-down Brio
trains and some new knock-off track and train sets. Ikea had
some trains for $5.00. We saw Brio collections for sale in the
classified ads too. People like to give them as gifts once it's
known a child likes them. When I was a little girl I had both a
play kitchen and the plastic precurser of Brio trains. We still
have my trains at Grandma's - it's a classic. My son loves his
Brio/Thomas knock-off trains and has not outgrown them at age 9
(although most kids do), but he never uses the table anymore
(because the track set-ups are too large and elaborate to fit on
mother of a train freak
this page was last updated: Feb 2, 2013
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