We enjoyed buying our kids all kinds of wooden, rubber and plastic foods when they were really young (ages 2-5), provided it couldn’t be swallowed. Great for imaginative play, it was easily seen as the “real thing”. None of it was very expensive. They made endless “meals”, played restaurant, served parties and meals for dollies, even dressed the kitten up for a holiday tea party, etc. Maybe it even set them up to have an interest in cooking as they got older?
By the time it came to preschool, we had a great first day. While most of the kids sat crying in their Moms’ laps begging them not to leave, my 3-year-old daughter was taking food orders from parents who were comforting distraught kids. She brought them each a plastic plate with rubber tortillas, eggs, and toast, plastic muffins and pizza slices from the preschool “kitchen.” She cut the fruit pieces (stuck together with velcro) with the thick wooden knife so there would be enough to go around. The Japanese-American families got rubber sushi and “tea”.
Much of the fake food can be purchased at yard sales, Amazon, thrift shops, and toy stores. You can “make” many things by buying the small sizes, using the contents, cleaning them, and turning them over to your two-year-old as pantry staples.
We know the birthday cake and cookie sets are really attractive to little kids, but, now that we have healthy foods in mind, be sure to get them vegetables, fruits, bread loaves, and other similar foods so the dear little ones won’t think that eating is only about sugar.
Teach the kids about Food Groups. There’s a specific product listed in the row above, but you certainly don’t have to buy something to teach kids about it. (See our page link below on the Ideal Plate). Discuss the best way to fill up your plate:
Divide it in half. (great fractions lesson here).
Fill one half with mostly vegetables and some fruit pieces.
Divide the other half into 2 equal parts (2 fourths).
Fill one fourth with protein and one with grains or breads, preferably whole grains.
Voila! The ideal plate.
Pretend Play Food
Here is a great plastic food set for just over $20. Amazon.com is not the only place to buy these things, as you well know. However, we favor it over Walmart because of the way Walmart treats its employees. The Velcro fruits and vegetables, pizzas, birthday cakes, etc., separated by cutting with a wooden (dull)knife are fun for toddlers to learn to manipulate.
Kitchen sets provide the foundation of a serious imaginative play. They seems like a lot more creative toys than Barbie, for example. If you’re going to spend any kind of serious money on Barbie and her suite of outfits and cars, why not skip it entirely and get a kitchen to stock with plastic and wooden food? Tell your kids that you want them to have their own food and kitchen so that when they get bigger, they can help out in the big kitchen. Also mention that they need to arrange all the food so that when they’re cooking, they can reach everything easily. That’s something a good cook always needs to do!
There are many kitchen sets available in different price ranges. Check out the microwave over the range above. I waited 30 years to get one of these.