{Imaginary Play: Let's Eat!}

Today Sweet Pea got her hands on Princess Pea's lunchbox and after several failed attempts with the latch, brought it to me to open. I thought she wanted to use it for a packing-unpacking activity with her Little People figures or blocks.

It turns out she knew exactly what it was and what to do with it! Instead of loading it up with farm animals, she reached in to the opened, empty lunchbox and began to pick up imaginary food, take bites, and do some imaginary chewing (that imaginary chewing might be the cutest thing I've ever seen, by the way!). I'm always amazed by her ability to engage in imaginary play already. And she's been doing it for a few months now! She loves to 'play eat', to feed her toy people and animals, and even to make them kiss each other! It's all just too cute! I guess having an older sister (especially one with such an active imagination!) probably helps.

From there, we moved to the play kitchen area. She began to unpack the box where we keep all the kitchen paraphernalia and do some more play eating with the fake foods. So I got out the little tablecloth, some dishes, and some fake foods, and packed up a little picnic for her in the lunchbox. She loved it! We sat on our little picnic blanket and ate felt sandwiches and plastic apples and pears, drank some imaginary juice from our little cups, and finished off with felt cake and cookies, and felt ice-cream cones. (All the while doing some cute imaginary chewing!)

Our play kitchen and related items are by far the most popular toy in our house! Our little peas both play with it daily, and I don't think there has ever been a child who has come over to our house and not immediately gravitated towards the play kitchen area. It really provides so much fun and imaginary play for them, not to mention useful skills such as opening and closing containers, cutting with a knife (not a real one, obviously!), table manners, turn-taking, kitchen safety, planning, .... the list goes on. So I thought I'd share with you what we have in our play kitchen area. It's not beautiful, it's not organised, but the kiddos LOVE it!


Now, this is not one of those lovely, inviting, wooden play kitchens that look like a miniature version of an old stove in a turn of the century farmhouse that make even me want to start cooking on it (and I hate cooking!). Nope, this is a hideous, pink and purple, plastic, Tesco kitchen planted in the middle of our living room! (Why on earth did we buy such a monstrosity? Well, we had just moved here and it was supposed to be a cheap, flimsy one that would last a few months until we had time to find a nice one. And wouldn't you know it, nearly 3 years later it's still going strong, even with daily use!)

The kitchen may be ugly, but it does make some fun cooking sounds that vary depending on which pot you put on the stove - boiling sounds for the pot, steam whistling for the kettle, and frying sounds for the frying pan. There's an 'off' switch for when they get annoying. And it even has a hook-up so you can attach a bucket of water and have real water pump out of the faucet (a feature we've never used since it's always been inside, but maybe one day).

Next to the kitchen we have a large box containing all of the kitchen-related 'stuff': There are various play food items made of plastic, wood, and felt. There are pots and pans, dishes, salt and pepper shakers, and oven mitts. There are kitchen utensils, both play and real versions (after constantly having to track down my wooden spoons, I finally bought a set of IKEA ones for them to play with). There is a slightly used disposable party tablecloth, perfect for use as a play picnic blanket. There are cutting boards and knives, both wooden and felt, and a set of wooden vegetables that can be cut apart and stuck back together again with velcro. I've also added some empty containers from real foods - a spice jar, an empty sprinkles container, an empty box of stock cubes, an egg carton, etc. These real kitchen items are especially popular.

I love to watch the kids playing with the kitchen stuff and to see all the skills they are learning as they do. Princess Pea has a favourite DVD she gets to watch on occasion - a Strawberry Shortcake cooking show. She loves to get out my cookbooks and pretend to follow the recipes to create all sorts of sweet concoctions. While Princess Pea does the play cooking, Sweet Pea loves to 'play eat'. They make a good team!


Linking to: Tot Tuesdays, We Play, Show and Tell, It's Playtime, High Paw, The Play Academy