Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Felt Food

When I taught Head Start, one of the most popular areas in the classroom was the “dramatic play” center. It was typically set up as a home, with a fridge, sink, stove/oven, couch, chair, table, ironing board, high chair, cradle, stroller, and a rack full of dress-ups. When I had my own kids, I knew I wanted to have something similar. We got a plastic kitchen for $5 at Saver’s when Squeak was just a baby, but he hardly played with it at all! I was so disappointed. When Pixie was born, my determination to make the toy kitchen enticing was renewed! I scoured craigslist for a wooden kitchen, obsessively checked local thrift stores and garage sales, and even browsed DIY plans for building one. The catch was that I wasn’t willing to spend very much money on it, since we already had a perfectly usable toy kitchen. Even still, I felt sure that if I could just find a more realistic looking kitchen, my kids would play with it, which I so wanted! Finally, after 2 years of searching, I found just what I was looking for, just in time for Pixie’s 2nd birthday. A small, simple, sturdy wooden toy kitchen (sink, stove/oven, shelves). And only $10! Perfect! I brought it home, and my kids seemed interested…but only for a few weeks. They soon abandoned it. I wasn’t ready to give up on it yet, though. Maybe it’s because I remember longing for a toy kitchen as a small girl, and I vividly remember the year I finally got one (a pink and white wooden Minnie Mouse one, no less!). It was my most-loved toy. I wanted that for my kids! So I decided to make some fun, realistic food for them to play with in their toy kitchen. I thought it might make them more interested in the kitchen, but I also was eager to trash the cheapo (and toxic) plastic food we had… I ventured to the craft store and picked up a variety of felt colors, pulled out my trusty sewing machine, and in just a few hours whipped up the cutest felt play food!

The best thing about making felt food is that it is really easily-customizable, and you don’t really need a pattern. All it takes is a little imagination and some basic sewing know-how. It is also a quick project, so if you’re like me and enjoy seeing results right away, this is the project for you! :)  I made two pieces of sandwich bread (the hardest part), one “crunchy” taco, two fried eggs, four lettuce leaves, two tomato slices, two slices of cheese, two deli meat slices, one hamburger bun, and one hamburger patty all in just a couple hours. Since making these, I’ve also whipped up a hot dog, a chicken leg drumstick, another two fried eggs, three strips of bacon, and a t-bone steak. My kids absolutely love playing with these, especially the pieces they can assemble themselves. I have plans to make many more items of food in the future.
And I’m happy to report that the toy kitchen has become a centerpiece in the children’s play. They often make meals on it, and when they aren’t using it as a kitchen, they are putting their babies to bed (in the oven!), or driving their trucks into the garage (again, the oven), or using it as a home for their Playmobils. I love solid, versatile toys that the kids can use in a variety of ways, and I love seeing them use their imaginations to come up with new ways to play with old toys! :)

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