After last week’s Manipulative Monday post about international, wooden, play food, my friend Alison (avid reader who doesn’t comment here, but loves to send ideas and comments to my email) asked me what I thought of other types of non-plastic food items for the housekeeping area. To be fair, I hadn’t really thought about it since I only ever see the plastic kind in centers and the aforementioned wooden types in toy stores and friend’s homes.
Alison suggested that I look at felt as an alternative to wood and recommended a website called Etsy to see several samples of handmade pretend food items. I found so many wonderful examples of interesting food items that will both be familiar to children and novel. I found breakfast sets, complete with pancakes and syrup, eggs and bacon, orange juice and tea. There are pasta sets, sandwich sets, burger sets, cookie sets, tea sets… the list goes on and on.
As far as International and multicultural foods, I found lots of sushi and other Asian choices, and a few other limited options. I was hoping for a full-blown Mexican set, some red beans and rice, perhaps a Gyros or two. No such luck. I did find a falafel set that looks fun…And this taco set
which is beautiful but not necessarily comprehensive if you want to have foods that look like the foods children see in their homes.
This got me thinking about the pros and cons of wood vs. felt in terms of durability and use. I must say, the felt options are clearly safer for crawling babies and toddlers, as they can’t bop themselves on the head with these (or anybody else, for that matter), they are machine washable, and as versatile as all the other types. The wooden sets are also beautifully made, can be wiped down, and will give you a nice goose egg on your forehead if thrown in just the right way.
All of these are great for encouraging early math concepts. Most come apart and can be separated into pieces (the tacos above are made from several separate pieces; the shells, the meat, the lettuce, the cheese, etc., and children can assemble their tacos as they please). They can be sorted, classified, counted, organized, and distributed. Teachers can set up all sorts of play scenarios that require children to create relationships with the food items in meaningful ways.
I really liked this box of chocolates and can imagine all sorts of math play taking place if children had access to it.