This is how she wanted to smile for the camera
I love this photo. This is how she wanted to smile for the camera. 7 takes and this was the best one.

If you ask my daughter what she likes the most, it’s got to be dancing. Then it’s the Wiggles. Then possibly chocolate pudding. Somewhere in the top 10 though, it’s play and pretend time. For as long as I can remember, her daycare has been telling us about her love for pretend time (or “dramatic play” as they call it,) especially when it comes to kitchen sets. She’ll spend hours going “grocery shopping,” prepping fake meals, washing dishes, baking and cleaning up. That’s why when I found out that we were going to get to review the Melissa & Doug Wooden Chef’s Kitchen, I knew we’d have an automatic winner on our hands.

Then my wife called and asked me if I knew what I was getting into. When I responded no, she told me exactly what our editor in chief Martin had sent along. Inside a massive unassembled box was the next couple weeks of fun in my daughter’s life. As I lifted this 30kg box up 2 flights of stairs, I started to think about what wonders the box held inside.

Some Assembly Required

melissadougmattdialsWaiting for you inside the 60-something pound box that arrives at your doorstep is this entire kitchen set waiting to be installed. While literally nothing is put together for you, there are a few really helpful things to know. The box of screws included with the package is numbered, as are the plastic pieces inside. For every piece of actual hardware, there is a sticker with a letter on it. All of this corresponds to the instruction booklet that guides you through which pieces you’ll need by number and letter. One of the most helpful things about installation is that with a couple of exceptions, all of the main screws are the same size so you rarely worry about messing things up or sticking a screw that’s too big into too small of a pilot hole. Very helpful.

There is virtually none of the kitchen that comes pre-installed. With the exception of some little components (like the “glass” pieces on the oven and microwave doors,) you’re putting everything together yourself. I recommend bringing the following:

  • A Phillips Head Screwdriver (a ratcheting screwdriver like the one I use in the accompanying video is recommended to help save your wrists from the number of screws you’ll be putting into this.)
  • A Flat Head screwdriver (which you might need to center some of the plastic pegs.)
  • Help. You will need two people for this because you’ll need someone to provide leverage occasionally when you’re piecing things together.

melissadougfinishedkitchen

Installation time should take approximately 60 to 90 minutes. It took us around 1 hour and 15 minutes, though some of that was offset by filming and taking pictures. I would NOT use a drill for this kitchen set. Don’t even think about it. Since much of it appears to be particleboard, one wrong drill and you’ll crack pieces off or fray the board in a hurry. All of the pilot holes have been drilled for you though, so not to worry.

What’s in the box?

melissadouggrocerylistThe entire package is basically a “What you see is what you get” sort of setup. The only thing inside the box is the kitchen set itself, however, it is jam packed with features. The Chef’s Kitchen comes with a sink area with faucet, 4 burner stove setup, an icebox with a picture frame (and a slot on top where you can put a real picture of your family or pet,) a fridge with an ice machine (and two ice cubes,) 2 areas of storage, a microwave and a multi-shelf oven. While many of Melissa and Doug’s toys try to focus on a blend of reality and play, this one works more on the latter. There isn’t much detail to the oven or fridge past the doors. Once you open either one, they just have pink (or charcoal depending on the colour you buy) shelving inside. This isn’t to say that it isn’t blatant from the outside what is what. If your child has a knack for authenticity, they won’t see much in the way of oven grills or metal shelving in the fridge. This kitchen is definitely built more for practicality than anything else.

There are no accessories or add-ons, so you will have to purchase those separately. Earlier, I did a review on some of the wooden playsets that are out there. The best add-ons from those in my opinion would be the food groups playset and the cookie playset. However, there a few other playsets I added to this mix to make things much more fun for Charlotte to play with. These include:

The 22 piece Melissa & Doug’s Kitchen Accessory Playset: I was surprisingly expecting this set to be wooden and a fair bit more realistic. However, I was surprised to open the box for this and see that the majority of the playset is plastic. You get a salt and pepper shaker (which is probably the coolest addition in my opinion,) a wooden olive oil bottle, some plastic utensils, a pot and a few other various bits and pieces. The salt and pepper shaker got a lot of airtimemelissadougdishset, believe me. I don’t usually let my daughter prep dinner with me, but she does when she’s over at my mom’s and watching her mimic those movements is pretty amazing. I also have a good idea how much pepper my mom puts in her food now judging by how much Char was putting in hers.

Melissa & Doug Stainless Steel Pots and Pans set: This is a pretty simple pots and pans set, not unlike ones you see with other kitchen sets. The only difference is that these are made of hand polished stainless steel. You get a colander, a pot with a lid, 2 pans, 2 wooden utensils, and a rack. My daughter loves these metal sets more than the plastic ones melissadougcharsweepsbecause they’re just like our own cookware.

Melissa & Doug 6-piece Cleaning Set: One odd bit of housework my daughter seems to like doing (except when it comes to her toys) is cleaning up. Her daycare’s told me that if the kids don’t clean up after themselves, sometimes she’ll take a wet cloth and go help wipe the table herself. During the summer, she got really hooked to the idea of taking the broom in the garage and sweeping up a small area. What better thing to do in the kitchen once you’re done cooking than clean up? The set comes with a broom, mop, duster, dustpan, and a hand brush to go along with it. I’ve never quite seen my tiny tornado get to work on trying to sweep everything up by broom and then by hand. While I didn’t really choose to show her how a mop works (believe me, it’s not a good idea at her age and curiosity level right now,) she thoroughly enjoyed the rest. The Cleaning set has sturdy wooden handles and its own base to ensure that everything tidies up (no pun intended) into one single presentation.

I asked my daughter to start sweeping so I could take a picture and got lectured for her having to sweep on account of my apparently spilling my food on the floor. I was told to be more careful next time but it was ok because I didn’t mean to do it. On a separate note, I better watch what I’m saying in front of her from now on.

But did she like it?

I can’t pull my daughter away from kitchen playtime. Once we started adding some of the other food sets into the mix, it was literally hours flying away from just kitchen playtime. She’d spend hours sorting the different foods into the fridge, putting things into the icebox, seasoning her meat dishes and so on. At one point, we even cleaned off her art and activity table and she sat a couple of her stuffed animals down for dinner. After a particularly exhausting play session with her where I had to be the guest of honor, cook her dinner and then help her sort through things in the fridge, I offered to let her watch TV (mainly so that I could sit in front of my laptop and start remembering all of this before I forgot) and was swiftly declined to the point where I think she was insulted I would dare imply such a thing.

melissadougcharplaying

From the parental installation end of things, thanks to the number/letter scheme, this kitchen set really was not hard to put together. 90 minutes to put together a kids toy is on the fairly high side of things but it’s worth it in my household, that’s for sure. The other thing that you really need to be careful with is the overall construction. Since it is basically glazed particleboard that makes up the kitchen, it is prone to breakage if you overtighten screws or screw things in the wrong way. It builds very sturdily, however, and is for the most part the usual high quality toy you can come to expect from the Melissa and Doug name.

The Melissa and Doug chef kitchen is now available online (in both pink and charcoal) at BestBuy.ca

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