Equipment: Tried and tested - Home from home

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You need an endless number of resources for your home corner. Here, early years settings put a range of accessories to the test for Sue Hubberstey.

Star rating
5/5 Excellent
4/5 Very good
3/5 Good
2/5 Satisfactory
1/5 Less than satisfactory

WASHING-UP SET
STEP BY STEP
AGE RANGE: 3-5
PRICE: £19.95
CONTACT: 08451 252550
www.sbs-educational.co.uk

This unit includes plastic dishes and cutlery. Water is poured into a yellow basin and the pink sink unit placed on top. Children can fill the sink with water using the pump attached. There is a handle for easy carrying.

Tested by The Old Vicarage Day Nursery, Warrington, Cheshire

'It encouraged self-help skills and promoted discussions about roles in the home. The children enjoyed playing with it, but it could only be used by one at a time, so it doesn't encourage sharing. We had problems with the tap feature and there were no instructions supplied. But we managed in the end.'

Rating: 3/5

PHILIPS KITCHEN UTENSILS
NES ARNOLD
AGE RANGE: 3-5
PRICE: £27.95
CONTACT: 0845 1204525
www.nesarnold.co.uk

The set includes a kettle, coffee maker and mini hand-mixer. The coffee machine is 21cm high.

Tested by St Hilda's School Nursery, Harpenden, Herts

'The children enjoyed these and the whisk was popular. It required a battery (not supplied) which was a bit fiddly to insert. It would be better if the items were slightly bigger. Having said that, they initiated some good imaginative play. I am not sure every child would be familiar with a coffee maker.'

Rating: 3/5

BIRTHDAY TEA TIME TRAY SET
LETTERBOX
AGE RANGE: 3-5
PRICE: £19.99
CONTACT: 0870 6007878
www.letterbox.co.uk

This a wooden, painted 28-piece tea set, featuring teabags, sugar lumps and pre-sliced cake. The tray is 29 cm across.

Tested by Holy Cross Playgroup, New Malden, Surrey

'We had tea parties both inside and outside. The children sang Happy Birthday and pretended to blow out the candles. We encouraged them to write invitations and post them at playgroup. They dressed in play clothes to go to the party and devised games to play. They needed little supervision, as they have all been to birthday parties and celebrated at playgroup. We felt that all areas of development were covered - personal, social and emotional, creativity, early maths, knowledge and understanding, communication, language and literacy. This is a safe product, but the candles and cup handles are small.'

Rating: 4/5

BRAUN KITCHEN SET
TTS EARLY STEPS
AGE RANGE: 3-5
PRICE: £30.99
CONTACT: 0800 318686
www.tts-shopping.com

These are miniatures of the real thing, including a hand mixer, a blender and coffee machine, all with appropriate sounds and functions, and six kitchen utensils. Batteries are not included.

Tested by Mayfield Kindergarten, Ilfracombe, Devon

'We didn't find this suitable for under-fives, mainly for safety reasons. The moving parts are fast for children who experiment with their fingers in the whisk or whose hair could get caught. They had trouble with the small knobs and buttons and the sounds the mixer and blender make are not realistic. The three main items need batteries, which did not last long. This could be used as a resource when we are cooking, but we would not leave it out in the home corner.'

Rating: 2/5

IRONING BOARD AND AIRER SET
GALT
AGE RANGE: 3-5
PRICE: £39.95
CONTACT: 08451 203005
www.galt-educational.co.uk

The airer comes with ten chunky pegs and measures 42(w)x30(d)x43(h)cm. The ironing board has a wooden iron and measures 61(w)x19(d)x41(h)cm.

Tested by Castle Montessori Day Nursery, Berkhamsted, Herts

'The set was a welcome addition to our role-play area. It is nice to see good quality wooden toys which are colourful and appealing to children. The airer was a huge hit with our pre-school group and was the perfect size for dolls' clothes and dusters! We had to replace the pegs as the elastic in those supplied kept breaking. This would not deter us from buying the products. Both items are great if you have limited storage, as they fold up, but are sturdy enough to be used by enthusiastic three-year-olds.'

Rating: 4/5

DOLLS ACCESSORY CASE
HOPE PRE-SCHOOL
AGE RANGE: 3-5
PRICE: £15.95
CONTACT: 08451 202055
www.hope-education.co.uk

This is a bumper set of bathtime products and feeding accessories which pack away in a storage case.

Tested by Hyde 'N' Seek Nursery, Glasgow

'The set had good play value. The children were quick to recognise the items and relate them to caring for babies and used them in effective, imaginative games. However, as a nursery looking to promote breast feeding, we felt it was inappropriate to include the bottles and formula food and other items related to bottle feeding and dummies. This product is good value for money and our children did enjoy it, but for the reason given is not something we would buy.'

Rating: 3/5

BEST BUY

For Sally Batchelor at St Paulinus Pre-School Playgroup in Crayford, Kent

'We are very pleased with the two wooden fridge freezers and microwaves we ordered through the Sainsbury's Active Kids voucher scheme. 'Collecting 8,000 vouchers enabled us to get a fridge-freezer and microwave for each room so the younger ones and pre-school children have a brighter looking home corner. We also replaced our play food,' Sally told us. With a limited budget, Sally says that many items in the home corner are recycled from home or bought at the Pound Shop. 'We give the children full-size things - like kitchen utensils or baby bottles - and find these often work better than replicas.' Space is a problem, as everything has to be packed away after each session. On Sally's wishlist is a kitchen furniture unit that can be folded and stored in a cupboard. If any reader can help we'd be delighted to hear from you.

ALUMINIUM KITCHENWARE SET
ASCO
AGE RANGE: 3-5
PRICE: £35
CONTACT: 0113 2707070
www.ascoeducational.co.uk

Two saucepans - one 10cm, the other 8cm with lids, two frying pans - 12cm and 8cm, and a 12cm stewpan are included in this set. There is also a wooden spoon and spatula.

Tested by childminder Renee Phillips Gall

'This worked well in the home corner, enhancing the children's communication skills as they discussed how their parents prepared food. I think it works best with children over four. The items are well made and should survive lots of use. However, it is an expensive set.'

Rating: 3/5

CLASSIC KETTLE AND TOASTER SET
TTS EARLY STEPS
AGE RANGE: 3-5
PRICE: £8.20
CONTACT: As above

This set includes toast. The handle on the toaster can be pressed down and the timer set to make the toast pop up.

Tested by St Michael's Nursery, Barnstaple, Devon

'It enhanced their imaginative play as they turned the role play area into a cafe. The items are attractive replicas of kitchen equipment. Turning the toaster knob would aid a child's fine manipulative skills and the pop-up action was popular. But I don't think this product would last long in a group setting.'

Rating: 3/5.

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