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In my opinion the best way to learn about something and get to know what things are is to play with them which is why this cut and play fruit basket is so great.
We have a set of play vegetables and so I thought the fruit basket would be good too as in my opinion you can never have too many food items to play with, especially as we have all the props such as kitchens, shopping baskets and shopping bags.
I'm not sure why but I am obsessed with play fruit for my little girl. I remember years ago going to my cousins house and she had these wooden pieces of fruit that sat in the middle of her kitchen table for her kids to play with. They were in two halves and you could cut them up with a little toy wooden knife and every time we went over to her house my brother and I would play with these for hours. I always knew I wanted to get some when I had kids so was excited to find these in the Early Learning Centre.
The fruit is plastic and comes in a crate much like you would find on a market stall. The fruit is well made and does look authentic although I do find the plastic a bit thin and the fruit is quite basic looking and not as nice as some wooden sets of play fruit. It is still great for role play though and safe and durable for little hands to play with.
In this set you will find a banana. A strawberry, a pear, a slice of watermelon. An apple, an orange and some grapes. The fruit is in pieces and held together with velcro so when you "cut" it you are basically cutting through the velcro with the knife in order to split the fruit apart. The sound of the velcro coming apart actually makes quite a realistic cutting noise and I think makes kids feel like they are actually cutting up their food.
Like I've said above this set is great for learning about fruit and we also like to play with it in conjunction with our shopping basket and play kitchen as we can play, "going to the shop to buy our fruit," and then come home and play, "cook with our fruit in our kitchen."
The set is £12 from the ELC and they recommend it is not suitable for children under 36 months due to small parts but they are not that small in my opinion and I am happy for my two year old to play with them.
Toy food seems to be a staple of most toddler toy boxes or at least in all the toddler homes I have visited. Amongst our play food selection lives this crate of play fruit and it has always been a huge hit since we first bought it over a year ago.
This is made by the Early Learning Centre so immediately you know that this won't be a cheap item, at around £12 for the crate of 12 fruits and a play knife it works out about a £1 a fruit which compared to what you can buy at other stores is a bit expensive. However the quality of these items and the way they can be cut has justified the price for me in the long term.
There are 12 pieces of plastic fruit ranging from the grapes and bananas to perhaps a few bit less well know papaya and pineapple. All the fruit cut into two pieces bar the pineapple which cuts into three pieces. The separate bits of the fruit attach to one another through Velcro one side has a small circle of the soft Velcro and the other has a small circle of the jaggy Velcro to fasten it too. I was a bit worried how well this Velcro would hold up over the years of use and I have to admit it has definitely exceeded my expectations as they are still nice and sticky and grip well. None of the circles of Velcro has fallen off or come apart form the fruit in any way after a full years worth of rough play from my three year old.
The fruit also has some paint effects on it such as the orange has some green bits at the top for the top of an orange. The strawberry has a green leaf at the top that is moulded into the fruit as well as a few black pips on the sides. These details on the fruits seem to lift them up from the standard play fruits that are very uniform in their appearance. The paint effects on the fruit have not fade or chipped away at all despite been bashed in the toy box, been cut up, tossed into pans and plates and barbecue on my sons toy barbecue.
The fruits have been great in helping him learn what the various fruits look like and are called and he often now hands them out on plates at tea parties with the teddies and his friends naming them all to everyone e.g. Bobo here's your pear. If he has cooked them he will also warn you that they are hot and to blow.
The beauty about them being plastic is that they are not only lightweight and easy to hold but they are easy to wipe clean if they have been used outside and got a bit mucky. In fact the only issue with them is making sure you don't lose track of the pieces if they roll away or if my son has put them somewhere for one of his toys to eat. I would definitely recommend putting them together in the crate at the end of each play to stop bits getting lost under the sofa.
The knife in the set is made from a silver effect plastic. The handle end is nice and chunky to hold and my son has been able to hold this and co ordinate his movements with it since he was about 2 and a half without any problems. The sharp end of the knife as it were is a curved end with no sharp bits for children to hurt themselves or others with. But it is still robust enough to cut through the Velcro without any problems. It has been strong enough to cope with my son pressing his full weight over it at times. The knife remains as good as new even after a years worth of play and has not bent out of shape at all.
The fruit come in a green crate similar to what you may see at a market stall or green grocers. This is great for storing all the times in the toy box I also find it helps me collect all the bits together at the end of play time as I can count have I got them all or has a bit of fruit rolled under the sofa. If you have the similar vegetable set the two stack very nicely on top of each other.
This toy is designed for children from 3 upwards according to the ELC website, but we have had this as a regular in the toy box since my son was just under 2 and a half and he has played with them correctly and nicely since that time. What I have noticed though and has been feed back from comments at his nursery is that when it comes to eating regular meals as it were that he has very good knife skills for cutting his own food, so I do think this toy helps develop his skills in this area.
My son has loved played with this toy since we got it and has enjoyed lining up all the fruit to cut it into bits initially getting me to stick them back together for him to cut again but after a couple of months he was able to reattach the two or three pieces himself. The fruit as with any toy food is used interchangeably by him in many of his role playing games such as shopping, cooking and tea parties. He loves putting these into his basket for the shopping and then putting them into bags to take home and cook and it is really nice to see his imagination at work with these toys.
This is a great toy and I would defiantly recommend it to other parents even for children under 3. My son has loved playing with these in many different ways not just cutting up the fruit but using it alongside other items for tea parties and the like. The fruit are lovely and vibrate in colour and have pretty details on them to help them be recognised such as seeds in the watermelon. They are well made and even after a year of these been played with a couple of times a week there are still as good as new with no chips or loss in stickiness of the Velcro. All in all 5 stars from both my son and I as he loves to play them and I think they have lasting very well and great fun too.