Over the years as a parent to two little boys it has become abundantly clear how important role play is in child development. We have struggled as a family with speech delays and communication quirks, and the best advice we have ever had from specialists is just to let the children play. We have filled our home with toys that let them re-enact what they see in the world around them. Whether than is doing the vacuuming, playing dress up or having an ice cream shop the boys are constantly playing make believe.

One aspect of role play that I know Zee has always loved is kitchens. Whenever we visit friend’s houses with toy kitchens he will make me endless cups of tea and elaborate meals with a bizarre mixture of food. With his brother now following his lead and the current restrictions meaning play dates are more limited and nursery is restricting the items the children can safely used I knew it was time to have our own toy kitchen at home.

A kids toy kitchen against a wall
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SMOBY Chef Restaurant

The Smoby Chef Restaurant is by far the most detailed toy kitchen I have ever seen, and certainly that I have ever created a review for. It is designed to act like a cafe, with a seating area and table to serve customers, oven, fridge, hob with sound effects, working sink and tap, till and card payment machine. There are over 70 accessories so kids can re-enact the whole restaurant experience.

Setting Up The Smoby Chef’s Restaurant

As with all large toys like this there is a fair bit of set up – and I would be lying if I said it was easy. Initially I had intended to set it up myself. I am a strong independent woman with an engineering degree – how hard can it be? I was quickly proved wrong, and JHogg joined me in tackling the set-up.

It wasn’t particularly difficult to set-up, but it was time consuming. Lots of accessories means there were lots of stickers to play and small items to separate from one another. If you are buying the Chef’s Restaurant as a Christmas present or birthday present I would strong recommend setting it up the night before, because I would have hated to be trying to get it all sorted with the kids getting twitchy next to me and touching all of the bits.

There are additional leg supports you can add depending on the age of your child. Age 3-5 it is advised to set it up without them, and age 5+ you add the extras to raise it up higher. Despite my kids being 2 and 4, due to their height we opted to use the higher setting.

The Details

There are some really special details on the toy kitchen that make it stand out. Little bits that Smoby have thought of for truly interactive role play experience.

Running Water

The sink and tap are interlinked with tubing and the running water aspect can be utilised in the form of a simple hand pump. Pressing the top of the tap pumps water from the sink through the tubing and out of the tap, so that children can pretend to wash their dishes.

The tap from a Smoby Chef's Kitchen
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Sound Effects

The hob has working sound effects when you place the frying pan or sauce pan on them. It alternates between a frying sound and a boiling sound. If I’m being honest this noise does quickly get on your nerves and a way of silencing it would be great, but that is only my view as a parent because the kids do seem to love it.

A hob on a plastic kitchen with a frying pan and saucepan on it.
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Working Calculator

There is a till with a working calculator for adding up the bill for your customers. It is a great way to introduce addition and keep in character as the restaurant owner. There is a little cash box below the till for taking payments and working out change.

A red toy till with working calculator and a cash box with paper money
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Card Payments And Receipts

My favourite part of the kitchen is the card payment machine. It comes with a credit card which you push in, and out of the top comes a receipt. You can do this over and over again, simply replacing the receipts when they have run out so it can be repeated. The back of the card machine is quite stiff so my boys aren’t able to open it themselves – which is both a blessing and a curse.

A toy card machine with a fake credit card and receipt coming out of it

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Menus And Signs

The restaurant comes with a cardboard menu, similar to those you find in cafes. There is also a little open/closed sign so their customers know when they’ve closed for the day. Along the top there are spaces for the plastic order tickets to go, just like in a real restaurant kitchen.

The back of a Smoby Chef's Kitchen with a closed sign on
Plastic ketchup bottle and plastic salt and pepper
A plastic restaurant sign with fake order cards beneath it

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Interactive Food

The kitchen comes with various plastic foods and many of them are interactive. You can use the frying pan to flip your pancakes, the knife to chop up the carrot or watch the pasta change in water. They can even build a burger or pizza following the instructions on the kitchen side of the restaurant.

A plastic carrot that a child is pretending to cut

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Coffee Machine

With JHogg working from home our coffee machine has been getting a lot of action – and so the little toy coffee machine in the restaurant is a big hit. There are pods for coffee, tea and hot chocolate, and 2 little mugs for them to pretend to make your cuppa and bring it over to you. It is a modern twist on the classic tea making role play and we love it.

A toy coffee machine
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Watching The Kids Play

As with all toys, the real test comes from the kids. As soon as they saw the kitchen they bulldozed right in without a second glance. I had placed all of the accessories in a basket in the fridge part of the kitchen, and they soon had it all out to play.

A boy reaching in to the fridge of a toy kitchen
Two children playing with a toy kitchen
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I have the kitchen against a wall in our kitchen/living room to save space when it’s not in use, but to get the most out of it we do pull it out so the kids can get all the way around. That let’s then pretend to “arrive” at the cafe, place their order and pay and then take a seat on the little stool to eat.

Two boys playing with a Smoby toy kitchen
A child sitting at the table of a toy restaurant with a plastic burger and condiements

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Ever the bossy one, Zee likes to be the chef and have his brother (and me!) visit the restaurant. We have to be careful though – just because you ordered a burger and chips that doesn’t mean it’s what you’ll be served! There is a lot of silliness and laughter involved in the kitchen.

Despite the higher setting JJ can reach even the upper shelf to reach cups and mugs. He can’t quite reach up to grab the order cards from the top yet, but to be honest even Zee finds it hard to slot them into place at the moment. I know that will come with practice as they get older and their fine motor skills are perfected a bit more.

A little boy reaching up for plastic cups
A little boy playing with a plastic Smoby toy kitchen
Three plastic utensils hanging in a toy kitchen
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Having hooks for the utensils and slots for the coffee machine pods helps the boys to tidy at the end of the day, and the rest of the items stay in the basket (not included) in the fridge to keep things neat.

So far our experience with the kitchen has been a positive one, and the boys have really enjoyed working on this Smoby Chef Restaurant review. I’m excited to see how their modes of play with it change as grow and mature.

We were sent the Smoby Chef Restaurant for the purposes of carrying out this review. All words and opinions are my own.

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