Make your own toddler toys: teddy food play


Teddies, cooking equipment and food are such an easy activity to put together for toddlers. Little boys and girls love to pretend cook and feed their willing teddy companions. I use this kind of activity for highchair time, mat timeplaypen time or as a table activity and it’s open-ended nature lends itself to long periods of concentration.

It is easily updated and kept fresh by simply adding some different containers, cooking equipment, food or teddy. It can be a “new” activity every week without much work on your behalf.

Simply look around the house, gather up some interesting containers, plates, cups, cutlery and the like, some kind of “food”, a teddy and you are set. Keep in mind the age of the child and choking hazards. Beans, pasta and jewels are best used under supervision or not at all if a child is very tempted to stick them in ears, noses and mouths or anywhere else they shouldn’t be!

Sometimes I use doll-house sized teddies and doll-house furniture so the teddies can eat at the table, go to sleep in a little bed afterwards and even sit on the couch to relax. I have used plastic food, felt food, wooden food, dry pasta and beans, jewels and rocks and even pictures of food glued onto card from junk mail.

As soon as your little one has begun use their imagination (pretend play) you can introduce this activity. For the very little children, you might even sit and play with it with them first, teaching by your example what to do with each item. Children with older siblings have had this modelled extensively, but a first child will not always know how to play unless you show them. They will of course work it out for themselves, but if you want a young child to use this kind of activity enthusiastically for an extended time, some modelling will go a long way to extending their play.

 

Recipes and food: Kids in the kitchen

Running the food processor is a job I often give to the youngest. They love to feed ingredients in the shoot and be in charge of turning it on and off.

One of my goals as a parent is to teach all of my children every aspect of running a household, with the aim that by the age of around 14 they would be able to independently manage their own household if necessary. I will not expect them to actually be doing all of it at once by that age, but they will have been fully trained in all areas to a point of competence; something I’m sure  their future husbands and wives will appreciate.

What does that look like now? Each child has their own personal responsibilities (chores) that contribute to our family. Personal care and general cleanliness, emptying dishwashers, hanging wet clothes, cleaning toilets and the like. Young children start on the easiest jobs and move on to the next level of responsibility as they are able.

Each child (bar the toddlers) also spends time in the kitchen with me; sometimes one-on-one and sometimes all three at once. They learn how to read a recipe, measure ingredients, make a range of meals and baked goods and assist with general meal preparation. I try to give them experience in preparing everyday food as well as special occasion food.

Another great job for the younger children is washing fruit and veggies. They usually get wet, but it allows even the youngest to feel that they have contributed to the meal.

By 5, my eldest could make a batch of muffins completely independently (bar putting them in the oven). He had learnt step-by-step how to read a recipe, take out the ingredients and equipment, measure and mix, spoon into pattypans and tidy up after himself. The girls were not quite at that point by the same age, partly due to reading skills not being at the same level and also due to me not having as much time to spend with them teaching the skills. They do however love to cook and are learning the same valuable skills, albeit a little slower!

Ideas for the youngest:

  • wash the fruit and veggies
  • feed pieces into the food processor or juicer
  • collect ingredients
  • stir mixtures (you measure, they tip in)
  • peel easy veggies like carrots
  • cut with a butter-knife (thin sticks of fruit, cheese or veggies into cubes or smaller pieces)
  • pull tops off cherry tomatoes and strawberries
  • tear lettuce for the salad
  • share ingredients onto dinner plates for a meal (great for counting practice)
  • roll mixture into balls (biscuits, meatballs etc.)
  • thread fruit, veggie or meat cubes onto skewers
  • dip chunks into flour, egg or breadcrumbs
  • taste test recipes (my children’s personal favourite!)
Recently we have spent more time with all three children together working production line style to stock the freezer for upcoming Christmas events. (We will be organised this year!!) They are rolling meatballs, threading chicken onto skewers, crumbing fish and baking biscuits, slices and cakes to freeze already sliced. When we need to provide afternoon tea, suppers, meals and the like, we can simply pull out the required amount of each item and defrost or heat then serve.

With several little ones underfoot I dislike any recipe for visitors that has to be made just before serving. I would much rather do the work ahead of time and enjoy spending time relaxing rather than in the kitchen.

Cooking is a skill that every adult should have and it is a saying in our house that “anyone who can read can cook.” We may not all love to cook, but we can all learn to do so to the point where we can put a nutritious meal on the table to bless our family and others. Pull out those cooking books and get cooking!

Outside activities: Water play

The warm weather continues, which in some ways is wonderful and others not so much! Instead of enjoying outdoor time, my children start pressing themselves up against the glass sliding door and asking to come inside where it’s cool. Time to bring out the water play. We bought this water table secondhand for $5 last year and it definitely was a bargain. All the children, even the toddlers, enjoy standing around it and getting thoroughly soaked as they play with the sand toys in the water.

I like to use outdoor time to get some of my own responsibilities completed, so all water play needs to be set up so that it is safe – no deep containers for children to fall into. The swimming pool and slide etc. does not come out at these times – that needs high level supervision. I do keep an eye on the children but, as I am not right next to them, water levels are kept to a minimum. The water table is ideal as it is up high and only holds a few inches of water.

Before we owned it though, water play was just as enjoyable. We used the lid of a clam shell sandpit and filled it to a shallow depth (about an inch) and the littlies could sit in it and play – double the wet fun. The older children prefered containers like buckets and tubs filled to a deeper level so I put these up on benches away from the little ones. While I do not expect the older children to take on the responsibility of supervising their brothers and sisters around water, the fact that they are playing there means there are several pairs of eyes on the situation, including mine. I know I will be called very quickly if a toddler starts trying to get into the deeper tubs – particularly as it interrupts the older children’s games!

Babies and toddlers are happy with just a couple of containers of water to splash about in but as the main game seems to revolve around tipping the water out again, you or an older child needs to be available to constantly refill their containers. The bigger children don’t mind scooping a saucepan of water out of their tub over and over again as they have the freedom to access the hose and refill it to the agreed level as required.

If you can stand the sandy mess, add the water play to the sandpit and you won’t hear a single complaint for hours! Nothing much is better for young children to keep busy in than water and sand. When it’s time to come in, I just stand them in a line and hose them all down before sending them in for proper showers and baths.