At any given point in time, there are real foods in the girls’ kitchen area. We also have play food that gets rotated in a little at a time, but the real foods outnumber the play foods these days.
If you’re considering rotating in some real foods in your kitchen, these are a few things that I’ve learned.
- Rotate fruits or veggies that won’t bruise easily or rot quickly. In the classroom, I alternated between limes and lemons depending on price. Now, we have a lemon tree that generously gives us lemons all year round. When they are not ripe, we still use green ones.
- If there are no allergy concerns, shelled nuts make for great ingredients. We have a hefty handful of walnuts an acquaintance gave me as a gift. In either case, if Greysen asks to have a walnut or slice open a lemon, then all the better since she’ll eat them afterward.
- Dried corn and gourds from fall continue to be baked in our pretend kitchen.
- Natural materials, like seed pods or leaves, are frequently found in outdoor play kitchens and can be just as delicious when “cooked” in an indoor kitchen. I keep the playthings large and fresh so crumbly leaves don’t wind up all about.
- Foods that won’t be wasted. Before the lemons have been there too long, we use, them.
These real foods, especially in abundance, have an open-ended property to them. The walnuts regularly become a fanciful collection of dessert foods, from “chocolate” to “ice cream.” These real foods are assigned roles such as “coffee,” “spices,” and “chocolate” far more often than other play foods.
At 24 months. Greysen is engaging in representational play throughout her day. Stocking her kitchen with interesting, real things that encourage her to use her imagination is how I try to create an environment that supports her interests, and thus learning. Real foods are also an easy way to bring the outdoors in – something I could really work on throughout our home.
Greysen’s friends are also drawn to the real food and have on occasion been unsure if they are even permitted to play with such things. On more than one occasion, a parent or child has approached me, lemon in hand, thinking that they were mistakenly available to the children and not to be used for play.
What kinds of materials inspire your children in their play kitchen?