Toddlers and preschoolers are often underfoot in the kitchen. They empty drawers, bang on pots and pans, and spill things (and sometimes even try to clean them up). Sometimes they even offer to help put away groceries (or get them out) by playing in the pantry.
It is a life skill, really. Putting food away so that it is easy and safe to retrieve. Precarious stacks of heavy canned goods or glass containers are seldom seen in a well-organized and highly used pantry. And your children can start learning how to put things away pretty early in life.
However, you might not want their "help" in your kitchen. So, why not make them their own kitchen stash?
Facepalm, or Lessons from the Children's Museum of Phoenix
I'm not suggesting that you buy a giant, albeit inviting, toy kitchen. Nor am I suggesting that you stock up on wooden or plastic toy foods. Instead, I'm inviting you to take a page out of the playbook used by the Children's Museum of Phoenix - do it yourself.
The grocery store exhibit at the Children's Museum of Phoenix uses recycled containers to stock their shelves.
Just like the ones I have sitting around at home...
Facepalm? Yeah, me too.
The Flux of New and Old
As you empty the contents of boxes, remove the plastic bag from within and then tape the box closed. Wash out the milk containers, let them dry, and then glue their lids on. You don't even have to do anything to an egg carton (assuming none of the eggs broke).
How to Open a Can...
The only tricky part piece is having the right can opener so you can recycle your canned goods. Many can openers leave a sharp-edged circle that would fall to the bottom of the can if you tried to re-attach it.
The OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener solves the problem.
As you can see, the top of the can is removed and has a lip on it. You can take it off, wash it, dry it, and place it neatly back on the top of the can.
...and Close it Up Again
A couple beads of superglue secures the lids just fine.
And if you feel like being fancy then you can drop a few dried beans or uncooked rice into the can before sealing it up. Then you'll have a can that also makes noise! (Certainly a good trick to have up your sleeve to re-invent the toy.)
Speaking of Tricks Up Your Sleeve
Another way to embellish the groceries is to stuff old herb containers with yarn, paper, or fabric.
And, I mean, who DOESN'T have a ton of bits of scrap paper laying around the house? It makes perfect ingredients. Have your kid cut the paper up into tiny pieces and make their own concoction. They could fill an old cracker box with paper crackers; they could make a rainbow soup; or who knows what. But whatever it is, it can be recycled.
How cool is it that you can extend the life of your canned goods by turning them into toys?
I see two huge things I put in my parenting "win" column: First, my preschooler gets free and novel toys on a regular basis. Second, I can throw out (recycle) the toys with no sneakiness or guilt.
Here's how you can get started:
- Buy a good can opener, some packing tape (optional), and superglue.
- Go grocery shopping.
- As you empty containers, wash them out and let them dry.
- Seal the containers shut.
You can stash the play groceries away for a rainy day surprise. Then you can say, "Let's play grocery store together!" and do a big reveal.
Kick it Up a Notch
OK, OK. This post would not be complete without a way for your child to haul their new groceries around the "store." So, you might also be interested in a collapsable Grocery Cart...
...or a Grocery Basket.
Whatever version of this post resonates with you, be sure to keep it in mind for the upcoming indoor play season! And I'd love to hear how it goes!