Introduction: "Play Food" Cards for Imaginative Kitchen Play

About: Artist, craftswoman, reenactor, costumer, mom, geek, nerd, gamer, designer. Love building props and costumes and lots of other things for fun, have gotten to do it for money in the past. Grew up restoring hous…

This is a ridiculously basic how-to. Simply put, it is upcycling brightly colored, realistic images from food packaging into realistic looking, free, recycleable, toy foods for children to play with during imaginative food-related play (kitchen, restaurant, tea party, etc).

The main image is a selection of play food cards in my sons' toy kitchen. The second is a view of the kitchen, which is itself hacked from a modular shelving system (similar to the Ikea IVAR shelves, if you want to start from the same place I did), using a selection of found/recycled materials. The table that forms the "L" was being thrown out by a local daycare center and I rescued it with permission.

Step 1: Tool and Materials

You will need:

  • a pair of scissors sharp/strong enough to cut food packaging
  • food packaging boxes with life-size or smaller images of food

The example is a cereal box from Trader Joe's, which is a great one because it has two images to work with, front and back, and they are about life size, with a nice detail (strawberry).

Step 2: Cut Out Food

Cut into the box and cut a rough approximation of the shape you want. Make it bigger than you intend to. I usually go for roundish shapes because they fit well in play kitchenware and have no sharp corners.

Recycle the rest of the box.

Step 3: Trim to Size

Fairly carefully trim the shape to fit the plate/bowl/pot it will be used with. Round any corners for safety, if the shape is not essentially round.

Any scraps usually go right in the recycling bin.

Step 4: Enjoy!

Repurpose a container for storage (clear plastic produce or deli containers work well).

Play until worn out, and make more, recycle the old ones!

If you want to make them last longer, These can easily be laminated, but the process renders them non-recyclable. Up to you!

Other ideas:
  • for homeschooling/unschooling, ingredients or nutritional info can be written on the backs of the cards, or info about where the foods come from
  • Any brightly colored cardboard will work, and you can make soups, pancakes, toast, from plain cardboard colored with markers
  • Paint/draw your own toy foods on any sturdy paper or small wood pieces (though, that kind of gets away from the upcycling intent of this instructable)
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