Studies show when young children play with high-quality pretend play toys, many levels of their mental and emotional growth are enhanced. On a social plane, after regularly participating in these play activities, children become better able to express themselves having developed linguistic skills early on. Their problem solving ability including mathematical and logical reasoning and other cognitive functioning are also improved compared to non-pretend play counterparts. Toy kitchens and play food are among those recreational make-believe sessions, if pre-planned, help children become early thinkers, and carry that ability with them throughout their life.
Research conducted by Kavanaugh, Eizenman, and Harris (1997) showed children around the age of 2-1/2 who had make-believe people pretend to conduct actions with pretend play toys, had a better understanding and awareness of others while engaged in the shared activity. And before the age of 4, children develop a “theory of mind” which both role playing and role assignment during pretend play help facilitate, based on studies conducted by Sinclair (1996).
This could be one of the main reasons why–contrary to previous trends–preschool training, academically, educational facilities are changing how they view pretend play toys. They are currently getting a head start on teaching children to be ready for higher learning education. Some pre-schools are introducing children to social pretend activities incorporating the teaching of colour, alphabet and number learning.
One of the easiest ways parents can introduce their young children to the cognitive thinking process is to create the play environment complete with a toy kitchen. Play food toys should be fun, and enjoyable, without causing anxiety for you or your child.
Complete the toy kitchen with many different types of play food in a variety of colours and shapes; pots and pans of large, medium and small sizes. These will get the child involved in the make-believe. It is educational, because food toys can involve cooking a pretend meal. Recipes cards involving some of the play food ingredients can be created for a planned activity.
For children not yet able to read, visuals help them develop association skills, identifying common food colours and shapes. Additionally, identifying fruit and vegetables will help them know how important these foods are to their overall health, short-term and long-term. This is especially important for toddlers in learning which types of real foods are edible and healthy. Foster this by asking them during pretend play about the food they are cooking to help them develop recognition and recall.
Parents can also teach their children to be responsible by cleaning up after they pretend food play. This action is one good way they can keep play food activities at a high-quality educational level.
Components for the play kitchen do not have to be expensive and are relatively easy to find, many stores sell mock food for play kitchens. You can purchase these items individually, based on your budget. Thrift stores and local retail toy stores are good shopping sources. The short-term investment is worthwhile compared to the long-term educational benefits to kids. Plus the activities are fun and free.
Joe Kanooga is a father of two kids, a successful business owner and the author of numerous articles about play food [http://www.girls-oys.biz/ShopbyCategory/PretendPlayToys/KitchenPlayToys.aspx].