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When Millie was two I bought her this food set from The Early Learning Centre. She is now 5 and although it is not all in the best quality it is still very much loved and played with. This is yet another buy that I wasn't sure how long it would last but it's doing well! I think we paid £20 for it at the time and we bought a shopping basket to go with it too so we could store it all together.
=== Early Learning Centre ===
The Early Learning Centre is a great place. They have a wide variety of toys for young children. I'm not sure what age their toys go up to but I think they are mainly aimed at preschool age. I always find the quality of their things to be very good and the prices are really quite reasonable. Over the years we have bought lots of things from them and our house is slowly turning into a toy shop! Millie loves going in to the shop as they often have toys out on display for you to try and before Christmas they had even more too.
=== Food! ===
In this set is a lot of food! They range from ice creams and chocolates to a chicken leg and a red pepper. There is a lot of variety. It says that it is suitable for children from 2 years old and I think this is because of the small parts. The smallest item is a strawberry and a little tomato too. These I took away at first as Millie still liked to put things in her mouth and if we have friends with little ones come to play I remove these just to be on the safe side. A friend of mine has this set and as soon as she bought it she removed the chocolate, the biscuit and the icecreams as she wanted to encourage healthy eating only! I thought this was a bit extreme but each to their own I guess and so even if you do take a few away for whatever purpose you are still left with lots of food to play with.
=== Playing with it ===
Millie at first didn't play with it in a very imaginative way. She would just look at the food, turn the items over, admire them and had great fun posting them into the basket and carrying the basket around proudly. Over the years she has developed ways of playing with this food which is really cute. She has tea parties and sets the food out, she will pretend to go shopping and bring back food, she'll set it up on the floor pretending it's a shop. I love watching her and it's really cute to see her pretending to eat it and to make me my dinner. Her friends that come round enjoy playing with it too and they find it very amusing to concoct strange assortments such as fish with ice cream! I think one of the reasons why they enjoy playing with it so much and that it hasn't grown boring is that there is a lot of it so they have lots of choice.
=== Education ===
This food is educational. Not only can children learn about what different foods are but they can learn about cooking too. Some foods are quite rare in this- an aubergine for example and a slice of peach. Some children may not see these very regularly or at all so it's quite nice to think that you can teach your child about what foods look like through play. I have used these foods to help Millie recognise them and this seems to have improved her eating too. She was a bit fussy when we bought this and throughout the course of a few weeks I managed to get her to try a fried egg, we made one and then put it on a plate along with the plastic one from this set and she found it very amusing to pretend to eat one and then have a sneaky bite of the real one. Sometimes when we are playing with this we talk about what flavours may go together and recognise which are pudding foods, which are naughty foods (chips, crisps...) and which are savoury foods and things. As well as learning about food Millie is also learning to use her imagination when she is playing with this and it's so lovely to watch but also educational as she will learn to make sense of the world like this.
=== Quality ===
The quality of this set is good but not excellent. There are a few items which are a bit damaged now and two which we have thrown away. The little sausage that came in a hot dog style bun split into two once when it was being 'bitten' and so became a bit dangerous so we threw it away. The block of cheese got gnawed on by one of Millie's friends and it left sharp bits of plastic which would hurt if they were touched so that also got thrown away. The icecreams are a bit battered, they come out of the cones and can be put back in but one of them has been bent and now won't go back to it's normal shape. Aside from that the rest of the things are all in tact. The paint is coming of the yolk of the egg a bit actually but I think after 3 years of being played with on an almost daily basis that isn't too bad and also some of these things have found themselves being washed up a few times and also having been bitten a bit so they are not going to be perfect, they have done well to last so long actually!
=== Opinion ===
In my opinion this was a very good set to buy. There is a lot of variety of food which will help children to have fun and use their imaginations but will also help to educate them too in a subtle but fun way. Most of the food is very good quality and for it to have withstood a lot of play time the way it has is good. Millie plays with this set regularly, she would play with it every day if she could but sometimes I put it away as she tends to get the food everywhere and isn't the best at tidying up after herself! I am pleased we bought it and think we will have a few more years worth of play time out of it yet.
My son has recently turned two and has developed a real interest in imaginary play. He is obviously not quite at the level that an older child may be at in that they can keep themselves amused with their own imagination but he does like it when we play games together. Therefore, with this in mind, I bought him a shopping trolley for his birthday so that we can go 'shopping' and discuss the food items that we might buy. To go along with this, I bought this set of play food from Early Learning Centre for £12.
The food comes in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box which has a picture of all the food contained in the set on. The set contains 60 food items - and there is a full list of the contents on the side of the box. The box has the suggested age range of 2-8 years. My son is at the lower end of that age spectrum and I hope that this means that the set will last him a good while as he develops and plays with it in a different way.
The food itself is good quality. Being suitable for 2 years plus, there are no small loose bits so it is very safe - especially as my son likes to pretend to taste and eat this. There are good details on some items - for example the iced doughnut is sprinkled with sugar strands and biscuits have chocolate chips in. The colours are also bright and bold and, most importantly, representative of the colours of the actual foodstuffs. This means that the set has the appeal of being both realistic and a good learning aid. The only issues that I would have with the set are that the plastic could be slightly stronger in places - for example the chocolate his indented where my son has 'bitten' it and that the scales of the items do not quite match. For example, the hot dog is about the size of a crisp.
There is a good mix of healthy and 'treat' food contained in the set. There are foods that my son is familiar with - bread, carrot, banana, strawberries and some that he is less so - aubergine, croissant, gherkin, asparagus. Therefore, it is a great source of learning and will extend his vocabulary and understanding. We can also discuss things like colour and whether things are hot (burger, pizza, hot dog) or cold (ice cream, watermelon). We are also able to count things, for example there are four crisps, two ice creams, two strawberries etc. As he gets older I hope we can use this as a prop to discuss what things taste like too - sweet/salty/spicy etc. Another feature that I like is that, as well as containing whole food items there are parts to allow older children to make their own sandwich, burger or bagel - thus aiding imaginary play.
The set can be used as a supplement to various other toys your child may own - for example a shopping trolley and cash register (as we have), a shop, a kitchen or a picnic set. It is very versatile and definitely suitable for boys and girls of ages 2-8 years plus. My son loves the set and loves me to tell him what all the items are or to help me as I 'shop' and put the items that I request into my trolley for me - who knows maybe this will encourage an enthusiasm for food shopping and make the weekly shop a more fun experience for us!
Another aspect that I hope the set may help with is the recent 'fussiness' my son has developed towards eating. By making him familiar with different foods in this way, I am hoping that, when I put them on his plate, he will be more likely to eat them. Time will tell, but this is definitely increasing his inquisitiveness towards food.
Overall, this is a lovely set that is very diverse and good quality. It is also good value for money - especially if you can pick this up even cheaper in one of Early Learning Centre's frequent sale events. This is a toy that will help imaginative play and also encourage social interaction as well as provide great learning opportunities - highly recommended.
About a year ago for her 2nd birthday, my little girl got a few bits to make a little play shop, including a shopping till and trolley. But one thing that was missing was some play food. Although the till came with a few bits, I felt a few more were needed to create a better stocked store for my little girl and I to play in!
In all honesty I didn't do too much shopping around. I spotted this play food set from ELC and decided that it would do the job perfectly. It costs £12 at full price, but I am fairly sure I paid less for it, and ELC items are often discounted so it's worth keeping an eye out!
A delectable range of food
The set contains around 30 items of food, and there is a good mix here, from fruit and veg, fried eggs, chips and a slice of bread to ice creams, a croissant and chocolate. All the items are nice and brightly coloured and it is obvious what they are which is great for little ones that are learning to identify different foods. Everything is a nice size for little hands and are easy to grip. They are made of hollow plastic so are reasonably durable, but won't withstand big feet standing on them or a good chew! There is a bit of squashing potential here.
Straight away I took out a few items - my daughter at two years, having discovered all the lovely sweet things in life and suddenly able to ask for exactly what she wanted, was at the stage of waking up in the morning and her first words would be to ask for ice cream and chocolate! So to discourage this I took out all the sweet treats. Sounds mean I know, but I just knew she would see these items and then demand them! Funnily enough we don't have this problem with the broccoli or carrots...
I also discovered that there were one or two things that were a little bit small too. Although the set is for two years and over, there are a few smaller items, such as a slice of tomato and a slice of lettuce, and a little hot dog sausage, and my daughter seemed unable to resist putting these in her mouth. Although they are too large to actually swallow this may be something you need to watch out for!
So we have had this set for around a year now and we get loads of use out of it. She has a little toy kitchen and she loves preparing meals for mummy and daddy and other guests, and pretending to prepare the food, often copying what I am doing in the kitchen at the same time. It was also good to help her learn to identify certain foods and I think now she is older it's definitely promoting an interest in cooking! The food is also used in our shop and again it has really helped us play these types of game with us taking turns as shopkeeper and customer.
So over the course of a year we have got loads of use out of this set for a variety of different games, and it's coming in handy for lots of imaginative role play. She doesn't seem to be losing interest in it at all which isn't always the case with toys, so I really have no complaints.
So to conclude...
Although I think this is slightly overpriced at £12, I am still going to give it 5 stars as we have had loads of use from it for various different games, the set is more or less as good as new despite lots of play for a year or so now, and I think we should get a lot more use out of it too! Recommended for budding chefs and happy shoppers alike!
The Early Learning Centre have an amazing range of toys to suit all age groups. Two of our older grandchildren have the ELC double swing in the back garden and they have had hours of pleasure swinging to and fro. Children learn so much by playing and it is intriguing to watch them as they act out certain roles during a play session. As grandparents we are lucky, we can join in with the playtime and go home after an hour or so! Dressing up and role play are always great favourites. The children love to play shops and of course we have to be the courteous customers.
The toddler loves the plastic supermarket trolley that we bought from Argos. If you are playing shops then it is essential to have plenty of stock for the customers to choose from. The youngsters are encouraged to interact and to investigate the stock, often there is also a period of reflection as they come across items of food that they have never seen before. The cupboards can be raided to some extent but then we need some play food. At the same time as we bought the shopping trolley we also purchased a set of plastic play food. The kids had great fun with it while it lasted but the plastic was thin and the pieces of food soon began to cave in. Given that the kids learn so much from playing shops we decided to buy another more robust set of play food.
I don't feel that it is essential to have boxed food in the play food sets. Our homes are filled with goods that are packed into small boxes that can be taped up safely and used in the games. After spotting the play food set on the Early Learning centre website I was determined to buy it. The set costs £12 and we thought that it offered decent value for money.
The boxed set of play food contains a mixture of healthy and not so healthy food. There are burgers, hot dogs, cupcakes and chocolate but they have balanced it out by adding a fish, some fruit and a few vegetables. The older children know the names of the foodstuff but the younger ones have fun as they pick the food up and try to tell you what it is. The set of play food is made from a sturdy plastic that bends but bounces back into place, it is strong enough to withstand tough exploration. The small parts don't have any sharp edges but any role play game that includes little ones really does need supervision.
I love the ice cream cones and the ice cream comes away from the top of the cone. The Early Learning centre have even decided to go up market and add a couple of mange tout peas! The two plastic eggs are quite realistic but I wondered if every child regularly enjoys an Avocado pear.
The food can be bought and fed to the hungry dollies and teddy bears that are ready and waiting. There are no sticky labels on any of the plastic pieces which is good. The food can also be used for dolls picnics, get the dolls teaset out and the plastic plates, take the whole thing out onto the grass and let them enjoy their play. This has to be one of the good things about small toys, they are transportable and can be enjoyed anywhere.
Though the food set from the Early Learning centre is plastic it is still tactile to some degree. Some of the pieces have rippled surfaces and others have `bumpy` finishes. Through time a child will come to recognise certain pieces by feel. There is scope to talk about the child's favourite foods, they may enjoy eating strawberries but loathe eating peas! Ask them to close their eyes and feel the pieces of food, in no time at all they will be able to identify the foods that they enjoy through shape.
The plastic play food is washable and it needs to be after it has been rammed into sticky little fingers and nibbled by gooey little mouths. If it is played with regularly then it is going to need to be cleaned quite often.
Children's games that involve interaction let them use their creative imagination and definitely encourage social skills. This play food set may be a few pounds dearer that others but the pieces are strong and well made.