Gift Guide : Play Kitchen

We’re sharing a variety of themed gift guides this year. Check out Dinos in the KitchenHeard You Like Cats, Ice & Drink Pairings, and DIY Edible Gifts.

**Quick note – all of the items below include an additional 15% off coupon on Amazon, but we’re not sure how long it will last.**

Last Christmas the boys received a play kitchen, and it’s become one of the most-used toys in the house.

Kitchens are such a great toy for creative and make-believe play. Sometimes our boys are making us coffee and toast for breakfast. Other times they are serving me ice cream cones for an afternoon treat or acting as waiters and chefs in their own restaurant.
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I love big ticket toys like this kitchen because it’s a themed toy that you can slowly can add to over time. For us, this meant buying a few items to play with Christmas morning, and then letting our family give them additional kitchen elements on Christmas and again at their birthday.

The slow giving method is also a great plan if you’re not sure about how much your kiddos will love the big toy. For us, the kitchen’s a winner, and we’ve been happy to buy them quality items for it.

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Below is a list of the exact items in our play kitchen with info about why we like them. *Notice that our list contains more items than are pictured above. It’s all so good!

  • kitchen (pictured above) : this retro blue kitchen is the exact one we have. We picked it because of looks and also because it seemed to have slightly more storage than others (key for all of the awesome accessories below!). The one downside to this kitchen is that it comes with a million pieces and takes a billion hours to put together. Keep that in mind when on Christmas Eve and pour yourself a big glass of eggnog before starting.
  • broom & mop set (pictured above) : the boys love this set and use it often. Almost never for cleaning, but always for sweeping out the marbles that roll under the couch. Patting myself on the back for encouraging them to be self-reliant.
  • cut-apart fruit (pictured above) : our boys love cutting apart this fruit. We also have this cut-apart food set.
  • espresso machine (pictured above) : if your kids love to help make your morning coffee, then they will love this! And you’ll always be caffeinated.
  • mixer (pictured above) : so cute and comes with a few cake-baking accessories. Our kids are always mixing up mini dinos. #boys
  • toaster (pictured above) : comes with bread and butter. A complete meal!
  • ice cream (not pictured) : BUY THESE! Even if you don’t buy the kitchen, this set is so much fun. They ice cream, spoons, and cones are magnetic, creating a bit of magical fun and driving the kids crazy as the ice cream tumbles when they try to make a four-scoop cone.
  • cookies (not pictured) : so cute and creative. The only bummer is that the tray is too long to fit in the oven (they’re different brands). Our boys don’t seem to mind, but some might.
  • canned food (not pictured) : a great food filler for the fridge, and all of the cardboard cans can be opened again and again, letting them do double duty as little storage containers.
  • tea set (not pictured) : comes with cups, wooden tea bags, kettle, etc.
  • pots & pans (not pictured ) : all metal and awesome
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First Snow Cake!

This is part of our ongoing Cooking with Kids series, because bringing them into the kitchen creates bonding moments, opportunities to learn, and plenty of messes! And ginger is our ingredient of the season this fall. You can find more ginger recipes here, but if you want another dessert recommendation, skip right ahead to these chewy ginger cookies.

A few weeks ago, we woke up to our first snow of the season. If that wasn’t special enough, I thought that it was worth fully celebrating the day, and any celebration worth its salt requires a cake. That was the humble beginning of our “First Snow Cake”.

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The base of our cake is a delicious ginger cake and it’s topped with a healthy layer of powered sugar snow. It’s a simple cake that’s easy to bake on a whim and should definitely be incorporated into your next snow day. The recipe and more thoughts on celebrating the everyday below. *I’m thinking that next year the cake has to be baked in this pan.

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Cooking with Kids : Chia Pudding

Cooking with Kids is an ongoing series where we share recipes that are easy enough to make with a two-year-old. If you’re new to the series, our first post that provides our detailed tips for cooking with little ones.

We’re so excited about today’s chia pudding because it’s a delicious dessert that’s  amazingly healthy thanks to the chia seeds. This is also a dish that a little chef can put together *almost* entirely on their own! Why almost? There is a pesky can opener involved, and that can slow down even the most ambitious 4 year old.

There are so many benefits to letting your kids help in the kitchen, from the basics of learning to count and measure, to the more advanced following of instructions. You’ll also delight in seeing them take pride in their work and their ability to do something for others – how excited will they be to serve this pudding to everyone else in the family?! And finally, for some kids, this recipe may introduce new tastes; there’s the strong coconut flavor with a hint of cinnamon, and there’s the unique texture of the saturated chia seeds.

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Read on to learn more about chia seeds and our simple recipe for chia pudding!

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Baking with Kids : Halloween Style

Cooking with Kids is an ongoing series where we share recipes that are easy enough to make with assistance from a two-year-old. If you’re new to the series, our first post provides detailed tips for cooking baking with little ones.

The focus of this Cooking with Kids post is all on the decorating, and in this post we give you sources for all of our fun supplies (including the spider cupcake holders!). Kids LOVE decorating treats, and Halloween is the perfect time to let them go wild. Make it spooky, creepy, silly, cute. It definitely doesn’t have to be perfect. And that’s what makes this project such a hit with big and little people.

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I like to plan projects for us to do throughout the season, some more time and energy intensive than others. Decorating spider cupcakes purposefully falls on the easier side. It’s something that you could do on an afternoon when you want to add a little bit of Halloween excitement (and sugar!) to their day.

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Cooking with Kids : Ginger Cookies

Cooking with Kids is an ongoing series where we share recipes that are easy enough to make with a two-year-old. If you’re new to the series, our first post that provides our detailed tips for cooking with little ones.

*We first published this post almost two years ago, but these cookies are delicious and ginger is our ingredient of the season, so we’re republishing them today so that you don’t let a good thing pass you by.*

Ahhh, I meant to share this post before Christmas so that you could add yet another cookie to your baking list, but time got away from me, so here we are with a delicious ginger cookie that tastes just as good on a cold day in January as it would during the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

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And I’m still smiling about how this came to be my favorite ginger cookie recipe. Calder’s sister made them a few years ago at Thanksgiving. That first batch was delicious and reminded me of the ginger chews that I used to buy in Trader Joe’s. I was so smitten that I asked for the recipe. She sent it along, and from her notes, I could see that it came from the grandma of a good friend. As I was baking these with Alex, I looked more closely at the bottle (more on that below) and realized that the recipe on the Grandma’s Molasses bottle matched the recipe I was making! Ingredient for ingredient and word for word. So, maybe you already know this recipe?

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Cooking with Kids : Brownies Hack!

Cooking with Kids is an ongoing series where we share recipes that are easy enough to make with a little kid.  If you’re new to the series, here’s our first post that provides our detailed tips for cooking with little ones; subsequent posts are less detailed, but each contains recipe-specific ideas for working with your little ones in the kitchen.

Ugg, our first Cooking with Kids post was exactly two years ago this month! Look at that wee little two-year-old Alex! I can hardly handle it. I’m also realizing that there have not been nearly enough of these posts, and we really have to get Luc in on the action.

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Putting my nostalgia aside, this post is definitely a hack in the whole Cooking with Kids series. We aren’t making anything from scratch and you may say that we’re barely cooking, BUT I think this simple cooking exercise has some serious independence value for impressionable kids.

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Cooking with Kids : Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin is our ingredient of the season. We have all sorts of sweet and savory dishes, as well as a face mask to wear while drinking your lattes. Cooking with Kids is an ongoing series where we share recipes that are easy enough to make with a two-year-old. If you’re new to the series, read our first post that provides our detailed tips for cooking with little ones; subsequent posts are less detailed.

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You may have seen these pumpkin muffins on Instagram, they spent Halloween week masquerading around the house as spiders. After browsing the Halloween baking supplies on sale, Alex picked out the spider holders, and they dictated our afternoon baking activity.

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It had been a couple of weeks since Alex helped Calder and I in the kitchen (somehow we had even skipped our usual weekend pancake session), and I didn’t realize how much he was yearning for some kitchen time until we started these muffins. The kiddo went ballistic when I put “his” measuring cup and spoon in front of him. I wish I had a recording of his excited giggles/yelps.

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In the first Cooking with Kids post, I mentioned using my phone to look up recipes while in the kitchen. While I do get recipes online, I’m proud to say that just as often I’m using cookbooks as my source. For this particular recipe (and much of my basic baking), I used the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. I recently read an article about how kids today aren’t getting the experience of using phone books, dictionaries, and other physical resources because so often we just search for information online. While I could wax poetic about how much I love cookbooks for their recipe ideas, inspirational photos, and stories, I think Alex will pick up on all of those details himself if I just keep the books around and continue using them during our kitchen adventures.

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King Arthur doesn’t have a recipe for pumpkin muffins, but it does have reliable recipe for banana chocolate chip muffins with whole wheat flour. I just subbed pumpkin puree for the banana and white chocolate chips for the semi-sweet. I might have stuck with chocolate chips if we had any, but the white ended up being a delicious alternative, adding an an indulgent candy sweetness to these hearty muffins.

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On this particular day, I decided to let Alex try using the can opener. I knew (and I’m sure you do too), that there’s no way he would be strong enough to operate our basic opener, but sometimes I think it’s nice for him to figure out what we can’t do on his own rather than having me always telling him. With a two-year-old, letting them try can actually make your days a lot more peaceful because you won’t have the whole “you can’t do it/you’re too little”, “but i want to/whining” back and forth. Instead, they try, fail, and then we use “teamwork!” to open the can together.

After opening the can (and reminding Alex that the edges were sharp), I gave him a spoon and let him measure out the pumpkin. He started scooping the pumpkin into the measuring cup, but after a few minutes, the temptation was too much, and he ended up tasting the puree. One taste led to two and three, and he completely lost interest in measuring out the puree, so I finished the task. That was no big deal at all. I could have tried to keep him on task, but why cause a fuss that would stop him from eating the healthy pumpkin?

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Other than the pumpkin, the rest of our baking proceeded as normal. Alex measured and sampled. He smelled the cinnamon. He sampled, and spit out, the salt. He ate a few walnuts and a few white chocolate chips.

Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients

  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Scrape down the bowl and then beat in the egg, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin, and milk.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, and then gentle mix them into the pumpkin mixture.
  4. Spoon the batter into 12 muffin cups (grease the muffin cups if not using papers). Bake the muffins for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan.
http://liveseasoned.com/cooking-kids-pumpkin-muffins/

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Bake these muffins, I promise they are anything but scary! Of course, if you’re looking to add a bit of spook to your table, we found the spider holders at Michael’s.

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Cooking with Kids : Pumpkin Cookies

Pumpkin is our ingredient of the season. So far we’ve used it to make some pumpkin butter, pumpkin popsicles, and a quick weeknight pasta.

Welcome back to our new Cooking with Kids series, where Alex is the true star, and these pumpkin cookies are the runner up. If you haven’t seen our first Cooking with Kids post, it’s worth a glance, especially if you’re just starting out on this whole kids-in-the-kitchen adventure. Today’s post will not go into as much detail about how to make the cooking fun for your little one, instead, I’m just putting all of our past tips into practice and sharing a few ideas related specifically to this recipe and baking cookies in general. As a point of reference for any moms out there, Alex helped with these cookies when he was 29 months old (just shy of 2 1/2 years).

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This is a recipe that I first saw on Design Mom. I made a batch for a party last fall, and predicted then that they would become a fall favorite. This year’s batch turned out just as delicious and well-received by everyone in the house, that they’ve retained their position as “favorite fall cookie”. The cookies are delicious little fluffy cakes of pumpkin, and if kept in an airtight container, they will stay moist for at least two weeks (surprisingly a few cookies made it that long in our house!). The original recipe includes instructions for a glaze, I didn’t make it this year, opting for a plain cookie, but made it last year and loved it. I’ll include it below in case you’re craving the extra touch of sweetness.

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Cooking with Kids : Lemon Bread

Lemon is our ingredient of the season! So far we’ve used it in a bucklein bars, in a savory pasta, and in the shower. Oh, and there are two on my counter waiting for our next project!

You don’t have to have a kid to make this Lemon Bread, but it’s more fun messy if you do! As you’ll see, the simplicity of this recipe is what makes it the perfect choice for cooking with an assistant, but it’s also what makes it an easy go-to treat. You can bake a loaf in no time at all for a last minute brunch, but it also stores well, so it’s the perfect tangy treat to make on a Monday and eat it all week long with your afternoon tea break (speaking from experience). Now on with the cuteness ~

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We’ve reached a new milestone in our house : weekly cooking sessions with Alex. It’s no surprise that Calder and I love to cook, and we’ve kept the kitchen open to Little A from the start. We recently turned a corner when it comes to sharing the kitchen with a little guy; at first we were just trying to keep him busy and safe, but now he’s actually helping with the cooking and he understands what’s going on!

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