The obvious purpose of play food is to encourage pretend play. And pretend play encourages expressive language. Tea parties, play kitchens, grocery shopping and picnics are just a few games/ activities with play food. Matthew and I like picnics. Elizabeth joins us if she's up. We feed dog, give teddy a drink and wipe their mouths because they are oh-so-messy.
Matthew can also practice using a spoon at our picnic. Sometimes, when I'm lucky, I can even include real food in our game. Matthew has a strong aversion to any new food and this is one way for new food exposure. His speech therapist has been successful with giving him whale cheese crackers through food play. He had never had whale crackers before. Unfortunately, I can't introduce messy food like spaghetti at our indoor picnic. I think he won't tolerate it anyway and will probably end the game and walk away if I did that.
More Ways To Use Play Food
We like play food pieces that are held together with velcro. The smaller pieces that are easy for little hands to grip work well as a hand strengthening tool. It sounds easy but it wasn't when Matthew was a little over a year old. The low muscle tone (hypotonia) made it hard for Matthew to pull the velcro food apart. He can easily pull the velcro food apart now but we continue to work on hand strengthen with other activities.
Cutting some of the velcro food in half with the play knife is a good way to teach Matthew to use both hands in a more refined manner. It takes a lot of coordination and concentration to hold on to the food with one hand and using a knife to cut with the other. This is a work in progress.
In a few years, I see us grouping play food by category.
Do you have more ideas for using play food? Please feel free to share them here.