One day I was wandering through a store waiting for Oliver to finish up his speech therapy and I came across this wooden food play set in the clearance section. I was so excited! We had a similar food cutting set growing up that my brothers and I loved to play with. I was thinking about all the fun ways the kids would be able to play with it at home and knew I just had to grab it. Especially since it was on clearance! It’s become a staple during our day and the kids love to play pretend with it. I love it because it encourages them to use their imaginations, problem solve (toddlers & sharing can be tough), and its open ended enough where they come up with thousands of different ways to play!
Regardless of what they are playing, we use a lot of narration for what we are doing to encourage Oliver to use his voice and discover new vocabulary. Oliver has a speech delay and when he was first began speech therapy, his therapist recommended using toys that would require some vocal explanation and would have easy words associated with the play. This play set is ideal. For instance, when we have the loaf of bread on the cutting board, we say “cut cut cut” as he is cutting through the bread. After a few times of doing this, he begins to form the same sound as he cuts through the bread. We also make sure to name each item repeatedly as we go through the basket. Using repetition encourages him to copy our words and sounds in attempt to improve his vocabulary and communication. It’s not only a great way to encourage speech but it also aids in so many other areas of development.
The wooden knife that comes with the set is the perfect size for the kids to hold. While they are grasping the knife or pulling apart the pieces of the food, they are able to work on their fine motor skills. While cutting through the foods, kids are able to use their hand-eye coordination. Same goes for trying to put the food back together! It’s also teaching them practical life skills like how to use a knife and in a safe, age-appropriate way. Cutting the food makes a playful “crunch” sound that Oliver has started mimicking as he cuts through the center. The pieces of each item have velcro tabs to stick them together. After he’s cut through all the fruit, Oliver really has fun trying to get all the pieces back together. It’s like a little puzzle while he cleans up.
Because there is only one knife, kids are forced to practice sharing and self control. We’ve noticed that now Emmie is really interested in playing with whatever Oliver is playing with and Oliver is not always interested in sharing with Emmie. So we have been practicing a lot of “I see you are playing with your food, let’s cut one more fruit and then give Sis a turn!” or “Emmie really wants to try to cut some food too! After we let her try, you can have you turn again!”. While it’s still pretty tough to share, he has gotten a lot better about letting her take turns too!
This set is also great for learning early math concepts, like fractions and counting, as well as organizing things into groups. You can teach them about different food groups by setting out all the food and help kids organize them in groups of fruits, vegetables, and breads. With each food, kids are able to have visual representations to start understanding the ideas of parts and whole. When we cut the apple, we are able to explain to Oliver that there are two halves and those two halves make it whole. Then we can repeat the activity with another item, like the lime, and show how the lime can be cut into four pieces, or fourths. As we clean up we count all the pieces as we put them back into the basket. He’s still learning how to vocalize each number so when he is able to say a number on his own, he gets really excited!
Open-ended play is, in my option, the best way to help toddlers learn and strengthen their imagination. Being stuck at home so much lately, this toy set has been a life saver. Whether the kids are out in the playhouse or playing in their rooms, its usually the first thing they want to bring out! This toy set has become a huge hit for our family and I think it would be a great addition for your playroom, too! Do your kids like this toy set too? Let me know!