There are a lot of fantastic benefits for children playing with fake food and other imaginative toys. It helps them to develop their vocabulary, imagination, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and social skills. But, is there a right age to play with fake food and similar toys? Find out with The Early Teacher.
So, what age do kids play with fake food? Most fake food toys are suitable for children aged 3 and over due to small parts and choking hazards. Children tend to play with fake food toys until around the ages of 7-10.
Read on to learn more about when children tend to play with fake food and similar toys.
What Age is a Pretend Kitchen For?
Pretend kitchens and fake food toys are generally suitable for children aged 3 and above. This is due to a number of safety hazards.
Fake food toys are generally made from non-toxic, child-safe materials, making them suitable for young children. However, some pieces may pose a choking hazard, which is why such toys are not suitable for those under the age of 3.
At the age of around 3, children’s play starts to become more complex, and they will usually have developed the required hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and curiosity to begin playing with fake food and kitchen toys. What’s more, such toys grow with children, contributing to the different developmental stages along the way.
A very young child might simply play with fake food, whilst older children may have developed the imagination to “run” a shop or a cafe. Not only does this encourage a healthy imagination but, depending on their age and development, may help with social skills, basic maths and counting skills, and memory.
Experts state that imaginative play almost matches what a child has experienced or observed; cooking, cleaning, playing house, going to a cafe or restaurant, or going to work. This will become more complex and detailed as the child gets older.
You can encourage this development by playing along, helping them to create a menu, or purchasing new accessories to aid their play.
At What Stage Does Imaginative Play End?
There is no fixed upper age limit for fake food, kitchen toys, and other imaginative play. Some will stop playing with them at around 7 years old, whilst others may continue to ages 9 or 10.
With other forms of imaginative play, some children may continue until they reach the ages of 10-12, when they start to become more interested in school, social activities with friends, sports, or hobbies.
Why is Pretend Play Important?
Young children learn by doing and imagining, using objects to represent something, whilst giving it motion, characteristics, and a story. But, it’s not as simple as this, pretend play has a whole host of benefits to a child’s development.
How Does Pretend Play Contribute to a Child’s Development?
Children pick up language from the world around them; what you say, what their teacher says, what their friends say, and even what the postman or supermarket cashier says. This is imitated in imaginative play.
You probably don’t realise the vocabulary that they have, but will notice them beginning to use and develop this vocabulary through imaginative play. It helps to solidify their understanding of language, as well as their confidence in their own ability to communicate.
What’s more, developing language in this way should help children to make a connection between spoken and written language, later helping them to learn to read.
Social and Emotional Skills
With pretend play, children begin to develop their social and emotional skills by experimenting with the various roles of life. In each scenario they are exposed to different skills such as sharing, caring, problem solving, listening, and creativity. With this, they learn morality, empathy, and begin to explore their own range of emotions.
Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
When pretend playing with other children, in particular, children are often faced with various problems and decisions that they must overcome in order to continue playing. This forces them to develop their thinking and problem solving skills alongside emotional skills that help them to come to an appropriate conclusion.
Learning About the World Around Them
Pretend play helps children to develop their knowledge of the world outside of their regular routine at home and/or school. This is important as they get older to develop context for other things they are learning inside and outside of the classroom, as well as context and skills that will be used throughout their life.
What are the Benefits of Play Kitchens?
Whilst imaginative play as a whole has wide ranging benefits, playing with fake food and kitchen toys have their own benefits:
- Boosting domestic vocabulary and social skills
- Improving reading and writing skills in older children that may choose to make a menu or read relevant books
- Numeracy skills (counting items, weighing ingredients etc.)
- Learning to tell the time when determining how long things need to cook, what time they put it in the oven, how long it has been in etc.
- Sensory play for younger children, helping to develop dexterity, curiosity, and providing new experiences
- Encouraging a wide and varied diet from a young age
- Context of and making sense of the world around them
How Does Pretend Play Help Social Skills?
Studies show that pretend play is an ideal environment for developing social-emotional skills, as well as positive peer relations, and challenging both their social-cognitive abilities. What’s more, children do this in different scenarios, therefore developing appropriate social skills in different environments such as cafes, doctors, schools, and more.
Further to this, pretend play teaches children key life skills such as sharing, asserting, cooperation, problem solving, waiting, and role-taking.
However, studies suggest that children shouldn’t be just left to their own devices; studies show that adult input and support increases the quality of social pretend play, increasing their developmental potential.
Pretend Play at The Early Teacher
The Early Teacher stocks a wide range of pretend and imaginative play toys, including kitchen toys, doctors kits, toolboxes, train sets, and animal toy sets. Take a look at our range and allow your child to explore different roles in life through playtime.