Before I was a mother, I was a nanny and then a preschool teacher. I used a lot of Melissa and Doug food toys in my day! Looking back, I become aware of how many different skills these toys help children build. It feels good to know I’m giving my child well-made, educational toys.
Melissa and Doug have been around since 1988 When I was a nanny in college, they were the first wooden toys I was introduced to! I couldn’t believe how affordable their products were with such high-quality wooden construction. I first used their fruit cutting set 15 years ago. The concept was simple: you have a wooden knife and a bunch of fruit that you “cut through” to separate the Velcro. How cool!
You’ll still find that fruit cutting set on their site today, and it hasn’t changed at all. Why mess with a classic, right? But maybe you’ve realized, like me, that the brand makes a lot more food toys than just wooden food cutting sets. So, I’ve put together a guide breaking down the different types of Melissa and Doug food toys. Keep reading to learn more!
Jump to a specific section
- Melissa and Doug Food Toys Guide: The Bottom Line Up Front
- What Makes Melissa and Doug Food Toys Stand Out
- Features I Look for in Pretend Play Toys
- My Top 5 Melissa and Doug Food Toy Picks
- Wooden Cutting Set – Cutting Fruit Set
- Assembly – Frozen Treats Set
- Felt – Pizza Set
- For Pretend Play – Grocery Basket with Play Food
- Plastic Realistic – Combine and Dine Dinners
- Melissa and Doug Food Toys Guide: Final Thoughts
Melissa and Doug Food Toys Guide: The Bottom Line Up Front
When it comes to Melissa and Doug food toys, they stand out above the rest because of quality, standards, their understanding of child development, and affordability. You can find all their certifications on their website explaining the ways they look at child safety.
They’re transparent about ways they work hard to use sustainable sources. Plus, Melissa and Doug work with leaders in child development to understand how their toys can help children in the ways they naturally learn.
When it comes to their food toys, you’ll find 5 different kinds:
- Wooden cutting sets
- Wooden assembly sets
- Felt sets
- Cardboard pretend playsets
- Realistic plastic sets
All of these toys are for pretend play. However, each type of food toy set also focuses on different skills, including role-playing, early math skills, or building hand muscles. For each type, I’ve chosen one that I think is the best. I’ve based my choices on my experience with the product and as an Early Childhood Expert. If you want to know more details on this, you can find all of that below.
What Makes Melissa and Doug Food Toys Stand Out
There are a few reasons I purchase Melissa and Doug food toys instead of similar toys by other brands. They’re open about their testing standards and sustainability efforts. I love that they work with child development leaders. Also, they were the first brand to keep their prices low! I’ll go into detail about each of these reasons.
The first thing I like about Melissa and Doug is that they’re real people! They’re married with children their headquarters is based in a small town in Connecticut. They started out testing their products on their kids, but today the company has a “kid testing” program!
That’s just the beginning of the testing Melissa and Doug do. For all the products they put on shelves, they work with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and use globally recognized, independent, third-party laboratories. I appreciate the transparency, especially after they had a recall back in 2009 around toys contaminated with heavy metals. This is why testing is so important.
They also hold both current U.S. and E.U. conformity certificates. This tells me they’re continuously being held accountable for producing the highest quality and safest products. Also, in compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, the company uses only child-safe non-toxic paints and sealants on their food toys.
Sustainability is important to Melissa and Doug. They take several steps to make a positive impact on the world. First, they’re part of One Tree Planted, planting a tree for every wooden product they produce. They only use Forest Stewardship Council certified materials. Also, they’re rolling out their Sustainable Packaging Coalition this year, which includes using more recycled materials.
When it comes to your child, they don’t pinch pennies here, either. They work with the American Academy of Pediatrics and Early Childhood Development experts. Melissa and Doug believe in the Power of Play and how it shapes young minds. As a teacher, I appreciate how passionate they are about making this topic one of the main focuses of their company.
From birth to age 9, we know that play is how children build the tools they’ll use for the rest of their lives. This includes everything from how to work with their emotions to language and reading. Playing with toys can help build muscles and teach kids how to work through problems. It feels good knowing that when I give my child toys that are safe for their age group, I’m supporting them as they become a healthy person.
But don’t think you have to be a scholar to know which Melissa and Doug food toys to buy your kid! One thing I love is how easy their site is to navigate. They let you shop by age or even by the skill you want to encourage. Don’t know a lot about the skills children need? Don’t stress!
A lot of toy descriptions on the site include a tab titled “Countless Ways to Play.” The tab lists ways to play with your child in a supportive way! You can even print out the list for free and keep it handy.
All of the food toys I found on Melissa and Doug’s website are sets currently priced between $15 and $65. Check other brands making wooden food toys comparable in quality and you’ll find that they’re about the same. While this wasn’t always the case, in recent years I’ve noticed more brands competing with Melissa and Doug’s low price point.
However, while wooden toy sets are more affordable across the board these days, Melissa and Doug still offer more for your money. Compared to similar brands, they offer more items in a set, including storage crates for many of them. Plus, there’s the educational info you get. You have access to “Countless Ways to Play,” and the info cards and “menus” that come in many sets.
Features I Look for in Pretend Play Toys
When I shop for Melissa and Doug food toys, there are certain things I look for in the actual toy: materials, quality, and skill. Keep reading for each feature.
Most Melissa and Doug toys are made of wood. They also make food toys of cardboard, felt, metal, and some plastic. I prefer wooden products made of hardwood, which is what Melissa and Doug use. Some things are also made of softer pine, like wooden crates.
There are some toy brands that I will not buy painted wood toys from. They chip so easily for some reason. Like with Hape toys, I prefer to buy their stained wood toys, which are excellent. However, I’ve never had an issue with Melissa and Doug’s product chipping, not once!
I look for sturdy cardboard with bright, clear images and metal that’s finished so it’s child-safe and free of sharp edges. Concerning felt, stiffened felt is better, but soft felt is fine if it’s quality. I look for bright closers and images that are melted in rather than glued on. Structured pieces can crease over time, but you can only ask for so much when it comes to felt!
As I mentioned, Melissa and Doug have a few plastic food toys sets. More and more companies are making affordable toys that are more eco-friendly. I don’t see the point in buying plastic if you have other options. I prefer silicone that feels good in the hand. If there are plastic pieces, I prefer that they are solid rather than hollow., which lets in water, resulting in mildew. I also look for any airbrushing done to be high-quality and long-wearing.
I’ve mentioned quality quite a bit already in this piece! That’s because when it comes to children’s toys, it’s a key feature for me. Not only does quality affect safety, but it affects longevity. Buy well-made, simple toys and they’ll last for years. That’s much longer than the flimsy plastic toy that your kid plays with for a few weeks before it breaks!
In terms of product construction, quality for me means a few things:
- Use of hardwood over soft or composite woods
- Stained wood or non-toxic, lacquered pant
- Brushed metal with no sharp edges or points
- Solid plastic instead of hollow with invisible seams (if any)
- High-quality airbrushed or hand-painted images
- Structured, brightly colored felt
- Beautiful, bright images on cardboard boxes and plastic bottles that imitate real life
- Sanded or sealed edges
- No glue lines insight
In Melissa and Doug’s food toys, you get all of these things. You’ll see that even the Velcro quality is excellent! Well-made toys are worth the long-term investment because they hold up over time.
One important thing I look for in new toys for my child is the skill they encourage. Do all toys need to be educational? Not specifically.
But with children, all toys end up being educational because play is how they learn. So, I think about what skills my child needs to learn, or what do they love to do? Both are important. Toys can support skill learning and improve skills your child does well already. This is how you can support your child through the quality purchases you make.
Another way to look at this is to think about what stage your child is at. On Melissa and Doug’s website, you can shop by age or developmental stage. I wouldn’t give my 1-year-old a pretend kitchen, because she doesn’t understand how to play pretend yet. However, I would give her a wooden food cutting set, because she is learning to use the muscles in her hands!
Melissa and Doug food toys focus on things like language skills, creativity, fine motor skills, and more. Look at the specs when you buy their toys. For most products, you’ll find there a description of what skills the product encourages.
My Top 5 Melissa and Doug Food Toy Picks
Scroll down for my top picks for Melissa and Doug food toys in each category I listed above.
The Cutting Fruit Set from Melissa and Doug is a classic! You receive 7 different fruits and a toy knife in a reusable crate. Everything’s made of wood and painted with non-toxic paint and finishing lacquer. The fruit and knife are made of hardwood. Each piece of fruit is a different size, and they’re all perfect for little hands to hold!
I love this set because it’s beautiful. It also encourages the development of everyday skills: cutting fruit! Whether your child is grasping the fruit to tear apart the pieces or using the knife to cut, they’re using their hand muscles. Cutting fruit is also something that many kids see their caregivers do every day. It can give them a sense of control and responsibility to do what they do.
You can show your child how to hold the knife and cut through the fruit. There’s a fun crunch sound when you cut through the Velcro! If they can’t figure out the knife, pulling pieces apart is also a great way to build hand muscles. They’ll use the same muscles for things like holding utensils, turning doorknobs, and writing.
You can even use this set to teach early math skills to preschoolers! When you cut the orange, it makes 1 thing into 2. This is the first-way math is taught to young children, by holding objects that represent numbers of things. You can help your child understand abstract concepts through play before they even start school!
- Has a variety of fruit in different sizes, shapes, and portions (halves, thirds, quarters)
- Comes with a storage container
- Promotes everyday skill
- Comes in molded plastic packaging
You can choose from several Melissa and Doug wooden food sets that need to be assembled. Like the Frozen Treats Set, they all often include menus or combination cards that have simple words and images. These cards show you the different combinations you can make. Kids can use these cards in pretend play or as a game, challenging themselves to make the matches they see in the images.
The reason why I chose the Frozen Treats set over the others is because it’s simple and versatile. Besides wooden ice cream spoons, it includes Italian ice, popsicles, and ice cream sandwiches. I love how large and bright each of the 24 pieces is in this set! It’s just pretty to look at. You can choose your flavor of Italian ice, assemble ice cream sandwiches, and make different color combinations of popsicles.
Children will play with this because ice cream is delicious! This is also a set that I can see kids from 3-years through age 6 playing with, giving it longevity. In the same way, it’s versatile. You can find ways to use it in constructive ways with kids at both ends of that range.
It’s simple enough that younger children can practice skills like mixing and matching. The motion of pulling apart the popsicles is unique and encourages fine motor skills. Older kids can play pretend, using the menu to order different combinations of ice cream. This encourages early reading skills, as well.
- Beautiful color combinations
- There’s a nice variety of sweet treats
- It has a menu card for pretend play
- It has molded plastic packaging instead of a wooden tray that you can keep for storage
Doug and Melissa currently have 2 felt food toys available- a sandwich set, and a pizza set. I prefer the pizza set for a few reasons. Pizza is fun! Also, pizza is usually a special occasion meal, so it’s exciting for kids. Plus, you can use the 4-piece pie for math skills similar to the ways I mentioned with the fruit cutting set.
With this set, you get 40 felt pieces that you can combine and layer. I love that it also comes with a metal pizza pan and the cardboard container turns into a pizza box! This set is beautiful and it holds up well over time. It’s also great that there’s no plastic at all in this set, which is a big plus.
Like other Melissa and Doug food toys, this set is for pretend play. However, it can be used in all kinds of ways. Trying using it for 1st and 2nd graders learning about the concept of fractions. In school, kids learn about fractions with things like a circle cut into pieces. Think about a cake or a pizza! Reinforce this at home in a non-stressful way by “making pizza” with your child.
You can also use this set to make vegetables less intimidating. There are many reasons children prefer some food over others, and they shouldn’t be minimized. Sometimes, foods are simply avoided because they have strong flavors or are not common in a child’s diet. Having them around can make kids more interested in trying these foods at home. This set is a great way to have fun with pizza, which is always a crowd-pleaser! At the same time, it’s wonderful that it includes healthy toppings like olives, mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions.
- The pizza has a large 10-inch circumference
- Packaging turns into a pizza box that you keep
- Images on the felt are melted into the fabric instead of adhered with glue
- Stiffened felt pieces can bend over time with continued use
A lot of Melissa and Doug’s toys are for pretend play. This is because it’s the main way kids play starting at around age 3. Besides the Grocery Basket with Play Food, several other sets involve scenes your child might see out and about in their daily routine. You can also find a pizza counter, a deli counter, and a complete grocery store set with a clerk apron and magazine stand!
This set includes 8 cardboard boxes and cans of things you might see in the grocery store, like pasta and granola bars. It also has a sturdy metal grocery basket with 2 handles. The images are bright and crisp. All the items are slightly smaller than life-size but they’re perfect for small hands. Also, realistic toys are exciting for kids! Role-play with this set or add the pieces to your pretend kitchen.
When you’re 3-years-old, your world is small, usually home and the places you go with mom or dad. This includes the grocery store. Your world is starting to get bigger and you’re trying to process all o. Children use pretend play to understand their world better. They play out everyday scenarios they see older people acting out, like shopping.
You can play out a grocery store scenario with your child where they get to choose what they put in their basket. This can help kids feel confident about making choices, similar to the way their parents do! You can also use the boxes and cans as unusual things to stack when blocks get boring. I also love how the plastic lids of the cans come off and pop back on. This can be used for fine motor skill development.
- Includes a variety of both healthy and fun food items
- The basket handles collapse when folded for easy storage
- All of the corners on the metal basket are rounded
- The cans and boxes can be opened and closed like the real thing
- The cans have plastic lids
- The cardboard appears to be plastic-coated, which is difficult to recycle
Melissa and Doug offer this Combine and Dine Dinners set with 17 pieces, as well as a set with 18 pieces. There’s also a third completely plastic set with 16 fruits and vegetables. I had a hard time choosing which dinner set I liked best! However, I prefer them both over the fruit and vegetable set because you can also find wooden fruit and vegetable sets on the website.
I also prefer the dinner sets because they include a menu and an info card. The dinner sets include all the food groups. You’ll find proteins, vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, and desserts. All of the pieces are realistic with beautiful details and color combinations.
A classic plastic food set like this one will make kids want to play pretend. You can take things even further by using the menu! Have your child look at the images and choose different meal combinations. As a teacher, I see several different skills being learned here, all at once.
First, they’re using early reading skills, even if they can’t read. They’re “reading” the images of the food from left to right, top to bottom. With this kind of play, you’re also introducing a positive understanding of nutrition with balanced food combinations.
Finally, children will use planning skills that take multiple steps. They do this by finding the food that was ordered from the menu and putting it on the plate. This is a new way of thinking for young children that will help them with math! Who knew you could do so much by playing pretend?
- It contains a wide range of foods in all food groups
- The plastic is solid and durable
- It comes with a menu for pretend play, as well as an info card
- At $45, this feels pricey for a set of plastic toys
Question: What ages are Melissa and Doug food toys made for?
Answer: Melissa and Doug’s pretend-to-play toys are made for ages 3-8. However, I’ve used them with children as young as 1 with supervision, because I trust the products. Use your discretion when using toys outside the recommended age range.
Question: Can Melissa and Doug food toys be left outside?
Answer: Unless the toy is explicitly noted for outdoor use, I don’t recommend leaving it outside. Especially wooden, felt, or cardboard sets. Even if the pieces are sealed, they’ll still break down over time if left outdoors in inclement weather.
Question: How do you clean the wooden food toy sets?
Answer: With all wooden toys, it’s best to surface-clean with a damp cloth and soapy water. I’ve also used diluted bleach with a damp cloth. Don’t put them in a sink filled with water. If you submerge wooden toys in water, you risk getting water through to the wood. Wood expands when wet, cracking paint and seals.
Question: Are replacement parts available for sets?
Answer: Melissa and Doug don’t currently sell replacement pieces for individual sets, other than the icing marker for the Bake and Decorate Cupcake Set. However, if you receive a product with missing or damaged pieces you can contact customer service through their website. They’ll work with you on a replacement for the item or even the entire set.
Question: Where are Melissa and Doug’s toys made?
Answer: While the company’s based in the US, all Melissa and Doug’s toys are manufactured in Asia.
Melissa and Doug Food Toys Guide: Final Thoughts
Melissa and Doug were once game-changers with affordable, well-made toy products. Today many brands compete with them, but Melissa and Doug continue to have high standards in safety and education. They don’t stand out in the crowd as much concerning their prices, but they continue to be affordable. I prefer them over other brands for their history, reputation, and transparency.
I wish the company made it easier to find information about the materials used in their toys. Also, for a company that strives for sustainability, I’m surprised that they go for plastic instead of silicone for smaller pieces. However, the CEO has made it clear that they’re making continued efforts to move towards creating less waste. Hopefully, this is on their to-do list.
I hope I’ve shown you in this guide that play is serious business! The saying is true: you are your child’s first teacher. Be encouraged that you can support early learning by providing high-quality products like Melissa and Doug food toys.
Don’t think you have to be a scientist or teacher to know what your child needs. Trust that you know them best. Think about what your child is doing in play. Observe them and play with them! See what they do with their hands and listen closely to what they talk about. What are they interested in and what are they struggling with? Then go from there!
On Melissa and Doug’s website, use the information you’ve gathered to make a knowledgeable purchase. Also, take advantage of their easy-to-navigate search options. Happy shopping!
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