When I stroll through the houseware aisles of thrift stores, I always keep my eye out for dishes and cookware that my kids could use with their play kitchen. My best find so far: a lovely set of 1 large and 4 small wooden bowls (see above). Of course you might also luck out and find used play food and play dishes in the toy section.
Used Food Containers and Dishes
When my Ikea plastic dishes were replaced by stainless steel ones, some went into the party box (to be used instead of paper plates at parties or other large outdoor gatherings), but many went to the play dish bin. My children also love to use empty spice and salt containers. Anything unbreakable and not too large.
Restaurant Supply Store
I wouldn't go to a restaurant supply store just to purchase play dishes, but if you are already there to stock your own kitchen with stainless steel bowls, etc., look around for small-sized cookware and utensils for the play kitchen. I have found small tongs and tiny rolling pins, among other things, at my local store.
There is a lot of wonderful handmade play food made of yarn, fabric, felt or wood on Etsy. One of our favorite play kitchen items is a dozen wooden eggs purchased from Etsy store Urban Homesteaders (see photos above).
Because quality play food tends to be quite a bit more expensive than cheap plastic junk, it's always nice to find some used for a fraction of the regular price. If you have the patience to troll Craig's List, you might happen upon a large lot of wood and fabric play food. You might even luck out and find a wood kitchen that way -- I've seen a few, but never managed to snag one.
Favorite BrandsMy favorite brand of wood play food is Plan Toys: solid, smooth, water-based paints, zero-formaldehyde glue, and made in Thailand. We also have a lot of wooden play food by Melissa & Doug (made in China), which also sells a large variety of felt play food. Melissa & Doug toys are available at major retailers such as Kohl's and Toys R Us, and you can also find them for a steep discount at stores like Marshalls or TJ Maxx.
Natural Toy Stores
Another way to find great toy food made of non-toxic materials is to shop at "green" or "natural" toy stores. Heirloom Wooden Toys is an online toy store that has a large selection of wood and fabric foods by manufacturers like Plan Toys, Camden Rose, Soopsori, and Haba.
I love their stainless steel set of little pots and pans. It's also hard to beat their $7 felt play food sets (veggies, fruits, breakfast, sushi). My kids love the banana that can be peeled and the lettuce leaves that can be pulled off to make a salad.
Make Your Own
If you've got the time and the skills, there is no shortage of tutorials online for felt, fabric, or crocheted play food. Pinterest is a great place to start for inspiration.
What is your favorite source for play food and dishes?