We all know that play kitchens and the play food that comes with them are great for dramatic play. I mean, who doesn't love being served pizza-watermelon-cookie soup by their toddling chef? But your kids’ pretend food makes a great addition to other activities too! Here are 8 new ways you can put that pretend food set to use in these food play activities for kids of all ages.
Sorting is naturally fun for kids! They have a natural desire to find patterns, opposites, and categories. Play food sets offer all kinds of sorting activities for toddlers and preschoolers. Toddlers can sort by color, and older children can use more abstract concepts to sort the food items. (Which foods are for breakfast/ lunch/ dinner? Which foods are sweet/ sour/ savory? Which foods are served hot or cold?)
Stereognostics, aka mystery bags, are a classic Montessori-inspired activity. To make one, put a few different objects in an opaque bag. Have your child reach in and feel the objects, describe them, and try to identify them, all without taking a peek. This activity helps your child develop their tactile senses, vocabulary, and reasoning skills. Play food presents a great challenge for this activity! Because most pieces of play food have a similar texture and weight, kids will have to use their fingers to explore the shapes to identify them correctly. This added challenge is perfect for older preschoolers who have already mastered mystery bags with easier-to-identify objects..
Toy foods like this apple pie or cake set are perfect manipulatives for introducing fractions. Abstract number concepts can be tough for kids, but make that concept tangible and dessert-related? Now that’s something they’ll get on board with!
If your school-age kiddo loves to play restaurant or shopkeeper, have them create their own price list for each of the food items. When it’s time to pay the bill, you can add up the total together. This activity is especially great for introducing the concept of multiplication to school-age kids. (If I want to buy three pizza slices, and you charge $2 per slice, how much should I give you?) Raid your Monopoly box for pretend money or make your own for even more fun!
Add a little challenge and inspiration to play dough time by asking your child to make their best playdough or clay version of their play foods. Play food items are the perfect level of difficulty for this kind of activity: simple and easy to make yet interesting and intricate enough that your kids will enjoy trying to copy them.
Bring your play food set into the craft area for fun food-inspired art! Use them as stencils, letting kids trace the outline and then color and draw inside. Or pour a small amount of washable paint onto paper plates, and use them as stamps!
Sensory bins are all the rage on Pinterest, Instagram, and pretty much every mom blog around. And yes, they live up to the hype! While there are all types of sensory bins, a classic version includes a base like dyed rice, beans, or kinetic sand along with smaller objects and toys. Kids love pouring, digging, and sifting through the base to find the toys, and play foods make a perfect addition. Since sensory bins are often themed around holidays, seasons, and other categories, toss in a few play foods that fit your theme!