Every parent wants to teach their kids as much about the world as possible. However, with children growing up so fast and a practically infinite amount of potentially useful information around, you need to be very careful when prioritizing what you are going to enrich their young minds with.
3 – 6 years
Interactable parts: 25
Entertainment, education, development of basic cognitive and motor skills, sensory stimulation
That means you need to start from the fundamentals, and learning about healthy nutrition definitely fits into that category. Melissa and Doug Play Food Groups set helps you in this task by teaching your kids about the five food groups in a fun and engaging manner.
You don’t have to be in the toy industry for 25 years like Melissa and Doug, to know that the best, and in fact, often the only way to help a child learn something is through games.
Even though adults are often able to find endless amusement in preparing, photographing and discussing their food, children often see it is an inconvenient interruption of their playtime. It’s no wonder then that kids are often berated to stop playing with their food, usually with very little success.
Melissa and Doug Wooden Food set may not be able to dissuade them from doing so, but it will help them learn about different food groups without your kitchen, clothes and hair ending up covered in your little one’s meal in the process.
While the playset is recommended for kids between 3 and 6 years of age, even younger children can have quite a bit of fun with it. Even though they may not exactly be old enough to start learning about the delicacies of well-balanced nutrition, they will still get to work on their color recognition; improve motor skills; practice counting, and expand their vocabulary. If they don’t seem to be engaging with the toy yet, save it for later, and perhaps have a look at our recommendations of best toys for two-year-old boys and two-year-old girls, and find something more age-appropriate.
As for the older children, you can not only begin introducing them to the basic concepts of a healthy diet, but also encourage their creativity and help them practice their sorting and organizing skills.
The playset comes in a 12.5 x 8.8 x 2.5 inches package, weighing 2.1 pounds. Encased in a plastic wrapper, you’ll find 4 wooden crates containing 21 pieces, also made of wood, resembling different food items, including fish, red meat, eggs, watermelon, milk, cheese, bread, tomatoes, etc.
The pieces are small enough for even toddlers to be able to play with comfortably, but not so small as to present a choking hazard. Aside, perhaps, from the orange that some reviewers have criticized for basically just being an orange ball with no other discernible features, the pieces are a faithful representation of different kinds of food.
The crates that come with the Melissa and Doug Food Groups set are very sturdy and most reviewers have found it easy and interesting to combine them with other similar toys, like play kitchens and the like. Naturally, they are easy to store, and with a little bit of luck, they might even go some ways towards helping your children learn to clean up their toys once they are done playing with them.
Despite it consisting of fairly basic items, this playset provides ample opportunities for your child to have fun, while also learning a lot in the process.
Younger children, who are still not ready to start adopting the concepts represented by the pieces, can still find quite a bit of educational value in them. For instance, you can get them to sort similarly colored pieces together, helping the child learn the names of the colors, while simultaneously developing their motor skills.
If your kid is somewhat older, you can try teaching them not only the names of individual pieces, but also, which food group they belong to. For instance, you can get them to place all the dairy products in one crate, fruit and vegetables in another, and so on. Aside from extending their vocabulary, this gives them a broader context for each type of food. While playing with them, you have the perfect chance to explain where do we get different kinds of food from; what do they have in common and what sets them apart; and finally, start teaching them about combining different items to create a well-rounded meal.
Naturally, if you have been a parent for a while, you probably know that a toy is not likely to hold a child’s interest for too long if you are exclusively using it as an educational tool. If you spend the entire time telling your kid what to do with the toy, they’ll quickly stop seeing it as a source of actual entertainment.
That’s why it’s sometimes better to simply let the child be creative and to assemble their own perfect meals by combining different pieces. While your mind and stomach might be equally upset by the idea of a fish and watermelon broth complemented by a nice glass of milk, letting your child have some rules-free fun will keep their interest in the toy alive, and give their eager mind some room to run free.
You don’t have to be a parent to know how amazingly efficient kids’ unencumbered minds are at soaking up every bit of information they receive from the world around them. Naturally, this curiosity has its downside as well, namely, it makes it difficult for them to focus on one thing for too long.
This is why it’s imperative to expose them to as many learning opportunities as you can, and why these opportunities have to be able to evoke the child’s interest. Melissa and Doug Play Food Groups set does exactly this, i.e. allows kids to learn passively, through play and creativity.
Aside from providing a perfect context for you to teach your kids the names of different kinds of food, their origin, and how to combine them in a healthy meal; the playset also helps them develop their motor skills, practice sorting and numbers, solidify or expand their familiarity with colors, etc.
The crates and the pieces are all made of wood, which, aside from some disadvantages that we’ll get into later, also offer a number of benefits.
For one, not only do you have to prevent your children from playing with food, you have probably also often had to stop them from trying to eat their toys. They are not only destroying the toy in the process but, what’s much more important, could be exposing themselves to harmful chemicals or pollutants of any other kind.
This set is not only non-toxic, but the choice of wood as the primary material means that your kids will be far less likely to try to chew the pieces, or to do any real damage if they do try.
While some parents generally prefer wooden toys to plastic ones, for the reasons we’ve just covered in the previous section, there are some inherent disadvantages that come as the price for sturdiness.
For instance, some reviewers have complained about the paint starting to chip away at some point. Unlike plastic toys, where the material itself of the desired color, wooden toys have to be covered in a layer of paint, which is sometimes prone to flaking.
Luckily, only a portion of reviewers mentioned this problem, while others were perfectly satisfied with the durability of the paint, which might imply that it’s a simple problem of maintenance. Drying the toys after your child is done playing with them should go a long way towards preventing damage to the paint.
The other potential issue typical for wooden toys is that they are substantially heavier than their plastic counterparts. While this is not a problem if your kid is a bit older, younger children who have not yet learned the finer rules of etiquette regarding chucking your toys at other people, windows, etc. might need more supervision when playing with these toys.
While you should definitely try to help your child to break this habit, until they stop seeing the world as a giant shooting gallery there is a rather simple workaround, at last with this playset. If you are worried about the damage that can be done by your little one, simply remove the riskiest pieces from the set, and only let your child play with them when you can supervise them closely. The already mentioned orange is the obvious choice, but the tomato and lemon are also good candidates for exclusion.
Coming from such a renowned brand, it’s no surprise that Melissa and Doug Wooden Food set lives up to expectations.
Aside from being a very durable toy, it can keep your kids engaged for hours at a time, all the while helping them learn about the basics of a healthy and balanced diet. Used on its own, or combined with other similar toys, it provides an outlet for creativity and imagination, which is something that every developing mind sorely needs.