Extending Play: Kitchen & Pretend food play ideas
We're major fans of our wooden play kitchen at our house. It's been a big deal to us from day one to instil a love of real food in our son, and one of the ways we've done that is to play with pretend food regularly. But sometimes you need some inspiration to get the play food party started, so here are our favourite ways to incorporate play food into our play time.
By far our most successful play food game, we've been playing restaurant for years with our son. We love it because he loves it, it's easy and we get to sit down and be "served" while our son keeps busy getting us all of our food and drink.
All we do is ask him what he's serving today or what the chef's specialty is. He writes down our order by scribbling on a pad of paper and then busily sets to work fetching our order. He loves it and we get to kick back, relax, and quietly giggle about the hilarious concoctions he's preparing.
Don't worry if you don't have a bunch of play food! Kids are super creative and they'll come up with all kinds of exotic dishes for you to order with whatever they have access to. We do have a tonne of play food and get "normal" dishes like fruit salad or birthday cake, but he brings loads of his other toys into the kitchen as well. We've sampled seafood soup made with pieces from his fishing game and "pasta" made with ripped up paper. So no worries if your kitchen isn't crazy kitted out - kid chefs will make a meal out of anything!
This is another big hit around our home and easy as pie. Line up or get your kid to line up play food like fruits and veggies in rows (these ones are all from Erzi). Don't have much play food around? You can use whatever you want instead - acorns, paperclips you name it.
Write out price tags (5 cents, 10 cents and 25 cents for example) and grab a handful of nickels, dimes and quarters. Take turns playing shop keeper and shopper with your kiddo. Our son loves taking our coins or spending them himself and he's getting a secret math lesson by figuring out which coins he needs to get that donut, or how much change he should give us if we give him a quarter for an item that costs 10 cents.
Picnic or tea party
Tea parties and pretend picnics are always a blast. You can add to the play by coming up with a guest list with your kiddo (inviting all their favourite stuffed animals and dolls of course) and making real invitations. Depending on your child's age, you can write the names and they can draw a picture or they can do the whole thing. Lay out a small blanket or towel and set up your feast!
It's super cute to watch kids help their stuffies to a cup of tea or a banana. As a bonus, they'll be practicing new vocabulary and language skills and working on their social skills without even realizing it. Sounds pretty sweet to me!
One of the most important things is to join in on the fun with your kiddo. We've found that by regularly playing along with our son with his kitchen, he's more interested in playing with it even when we're not actively involved. Your kids are looking to you to see what you think is cool and are more interested in what you've shown interest in too. So pick toys that you love to play with too, and watch your kid fall in love with it!