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Play cooking pieces—from tiny blenders to full-service kitchens—are big business these days. There’s no end to the slew of products available for your young chef. We scoured the market for the chicest play kitchen gear; read on to learn about some of our finds.

The idea behind Grace Arbor Play Kitchens is to create pieces with longevity, says the company’s founder, Mark Odlum, who came up with the concept of a reclaimed wood play kitchen when he was searching for one for his two-year-old daughter, Grace. “None of the kitchens I came across had the charm I was looking for. I wanted something that looked like it’s been in your family for 50 years.”

And so Odlum, a Venice Beach-based writer and actor who happens to be a skilled carpenter as well, went off to his workshop to build a play kitchen himself. The result was positively precious: a charming, rustic, tiny kitchen with endless fine detail and vintage appeal. Little Grace adored the kitchen, and soon friends were asking Odlum to craft similar models for their kids. The interest spurred Odlum to launch Grace Arbor Play Kitchens. They are crafted out of reclaimed wood with repurposed parts—old chair legs, for example, are used for the sink faucet and knobs—and finished with non-toxic paint and beeswax finishes that Odlum concocts himself. “Grace’s play area is in our home’s main living space,” says Odlum, who wanted the mini-kitchen to merge well with the aesthetic of their Craftsman-style beach cottage. “We’re looking at the kitchen all day, and it’s really pretty—it blends in like a piece of art.”

Available in three finishes, each Grace Arbor play kitchen is handcrafted. Multiple nooks and crannies—a letter slot on one side; a vintage light switch meant to recall the operative for a garbage disposal—will keep little ones occupied endlessly. The kitchen is also easy to ship and store: The top shelving unit unscrews and folds down on top of the base.

IKEA’s five-piece cookware set exudes a streamlined, modern appeal. A cash register that comes with play money and credit cards is equipped with a solar-powered calculator (no batteries required) to encourage children to engage in the grocery shopping experience. A handy felt basket filled with fruits, vegetables, and other foods is the ultimate accouterment.

Pottery Barn Kids Chelsea All-in-1 Kitchen has it all—stove, apron-front sink, and an ample refrigerator—in a striking gray or pink finish fitted with of-the-moment brass hardware. Assembly on this model is required, so be sure to set it up well before your little one is ready to play with it. The kitchen is a great place to make preparations for an afternoon tea party, which can then be rolled to the table and served from the tea cart. The Emily & Merritt Tea Set is an essential, of course.

French toy manufacturer Janod has a slew of stylish play kitchen products. Among the company’s latest creations is the “Macaron” kitchen, which exhibits a mod Parisian flair with a pink color scheme. Food boxes and cooking utensils are also included. The “Spicy” kitchen has a similar style with a bolder color palette accented by a vibrant-toned hexagonal backsplash that will appeal to mini chefs who are also design mavens.

Palumba, a division of Camden Rose, offers natural wooden cooking accessories that complement any play kitchen. In the kitchen collection there’s a frying pan crafted out of cherry wood and a blender—essential for making “smoothies”—fitted with a wood blade that spins. The maple rolling pin can also be used in real kitchens to help mom or dad roll out dough when it’s time to make cookies.

These days, all kitchens are equipped with coffee makers like this one by KidKraft that ensures a steaming cup of joe in mere seconds. This play model—in a modern espresso tone paired silver to emulate the look of stainless steel—comes with three coffee pods, a mixing spoon, and milk. There’s no assembly required, so kids can get brewing as soon as they remove it from the box.

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Published on April 17, 2017