• Adding a dish set into your child’s pretend play can be a great way to facilitate their hard-working hands and minds.
  • Kids can host pretend picnics, manage imaginary restaurants, and cook “meals” for their friends and family members.
  • The Green Toys Dish Set is easy for kids who are at least 2 years old to play with, it comes with all the dishes and cutlery you need, and it’s easy to clean.
  • My 20-month-old and 4 1/2-year-old kids enjoy playing with the set.

Pretend dish sets are a delight to have around. They’re fun and educational, have multiple parts that kids can use in different and creative ways, and can be used in almost any setting in your home. For littler little kids, like my now 20-month-old, they’re great for improving fine motor skills. Toddlers can stack the pieces, put things in and take things out of them, and manipulate the different shapes, weights, and details.

For bigger little kids, like my almost 5-year-old, any kind of “set” is a great tool for facilitating their pretend play. Sometimes my big kid goes off on her own and sets up a scene for a picnic or tea party on the floor with her dolls and other characters.

Other times I prompt her to explore a script, like playing restaurant, which encourages her to push her understanding of how certain activities work: She can set the table, seat us at it, take orders, and choose which food goes where on the table. Most of the time, the rest of the family is lucky enough to be involved in her wild imagination.

There are many dish set options to go with say, your Hape pretend kitchen. They range from including just the basics, all the way up to 70-piece sets that include many other kinds of kitchen tools, like a pretend pizza cutter or whisk. Most are made of plastic. Throughout my own research for a good dish set, I wanted to find something made of teething-friendly materials that would be easy to maintain and could be used indoors and out.

I was pleased when Green Toys agreed to send me its Dish Set for review, as at first glance it appeared to meet my criteria and didn’t overlap with the kitchen accessories we already had.

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Clean, green, and safe for the dishwasher

The full set arrived in a 100% recycled brown rectangular box with a cutout in the front so we could investigate everything before even taking it out of the box.

It includes four plates, four bowls, four cups, and four sets of cutlery, including forks, knives, and spoons. The green, purple, blue, and yellow colors are muted but still friendly, and the hues don’t lean in one gendered direction, a welcome plus.

The box advertises in big letters that the contents are made from 100% recycled plastic – old milk containers, specifically. The dishwasher-safe set is BPA and phthalate-free and meets FDA standards for food contact, so I haven’t had to worry about the accidental-but-constant tendency kids have to put any and all food-related toys in their mouths.

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Foto: My kids enjoy hosting picnics and meals with the toy dish set. Source: Alyson E. Aladro/INSIDER

Putting the set to use

When it comes to the kids using toys with specified age ranges, my default setting is to take them with a grain of salt, unless there is a glaring choking hazard, of course. I like to help my kids figure out their own ways to play with a toy until they can catch up to the developmental requirements.

However, the silverware in this set, which is recommended for two years and older, is extremely dainty and lightweight, and my 19-month-old can only play with them as far as he can throw them. Literally.

My four-and-a-half-year-old is able to handle them without much trouble, but I can see that even she needs to be more deliberate in her use than compared to using her actual cutlery. As the little one gets older, I’ll be happy to see him improving his fine motor skills using the silverware.

The rest of the pieces are also lightweight but have more heft to them just because of their overall dimensions. I like that the cups are easy to use, as “Cheers”-ing is my youngest one’s latest favorite mealtime activity.

Overall, both my kids make great use of this dish set. We had been food-heavy but light on accessories for a long time, and this simple addition has made for bigger picnics, better imaginative play, and more things to do to keep their hands and minds busy.

Made in California

The Green Toys Dish Set and all the company’s toys are made in the United States. Capitalizing on an opportunity to support a company with home-made products not only means local and immediate advantages like job creation, but also larger environmental implications.

Being made and shipped within this country means less transportation and energy needs, and a reduction in greenhouse gases.

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Foto: All the dishes are durable and easy to clean. Source: Alyson E Aladro/INSIDER

The cons

In addition to the dainty silverware, which is less of a problem and more likely a learning opportunity in fine motor skills, the material seems somewhat prone to static cling.

The human and dog hair that resides in our living room carpet ends up all over some of the pieces. It’s particularly obvious on the plates, perhaps because they are a lighter color than the bowls and cups.

The bottom line

If you’re looking for a sweet, simple dish set for pretend play, this is a good place to start. There are more extensive collections out there, but with its clean design and materials, the Green Toys Dish Set will incorporate well into many a pretend kitchen or picnic set.

Pros: Lightweight and easy to clean; US-made from recycled materials

Cons: Collects hair and dust easily; silverware is so lightweight it’s difficult for smaller kids to manipulate