Here at WEFM we know that food is a strong binding material for families- we see evidence of that every Sunday. Understandably so, playing house and, in particular, kitchen, is something which children do in all cultures. Stroll down the right aisle at your local toy store and you'll find miniature versions of your kitchen appliances, utensils and even produce molded from colorful plastic. But then take a closer look.
Well, first examine the 'health food' to 'junk food' ratio. Seems like a lot of carry out, sugary snacks and desserts for a kid's toy. At least 14 of the 125 pieces are some manner of fried potato product. They're hard to tell in one glance because there are over a hundred little pieces to look at AND all the snacks are hidden close to the border.
Still, this is not bad. Once I saw a set have the audacity to print on a mini-cereal box that it had artificial colors and flavors! Probably not the right message we want to give our little ones.
Similarly, Melissa and Doug toys feature more fresh foods in great sets which can be applied to learn direction following, patterns and simple fractions. Also pricey, I would consider them like a nice wooden block set- something you'd be willing to keep for grandchildren.
Start with something simple like boxed mac 'n' cheese (Annie's is my favorite) but jazz it up! This is one of the easiest things to hack because cheese is so versatile. Before the pasta is fully cooked, toss in your mix-ins so they can heat up. Frozen veggies are easy for toddlers to scoop but a more dextrous child might like slicing up a hot dog with a butter knife (and adult supervision of course).
Level up to pizza which can result in funny faced pies or the epic RAINBOW PIZZA. Before you know it your kids will be informed eaters and your kitchen will be a total mess. But you know what? That's probably worth it.