Do your kids enjoy helping you in the kitchen? Mine sure do. We love to work together making yummy foods for our family. Check out some of our Kids In The Kitchen stories and you will see some of the kitchen fun we have. But more than just having fun, we are building relationships and learning practical life skills.
My daughter, age 4, loves to help in the kitchen. But she would like to do whatever she wants in the kitchen, whether I am available to help her or not. She likes to be independent. Some things are ok, but some are not. Such as when she soaks the kitchen counter with dish water.
If only the counter was kid proof (water proof), it would be great. But it is not kid proof and is showing signs of water damage, due to her, and her little brother’s, method of getting water everywhere. I am constantly removing the chair she has pushed up to the counter, and trying to get her to understand she has to wait for help to do certain kitchen things, or wait for me to invite her to do a job in the kitchen along side me. I wish I didn’t have to do this, but for her safety and for the sake of the kitchen counter, it is necessary.
We have a play kitchen that I got for my first child over 11 years ago. It has served us well over the years. All the kids have played with it almost daily, and though there are a few broken items on it, it still functions as a play kitchen. We keep it in the bedroom with the other toys most of the time. But sometimes we bring it to the kitchen or living room, and some nice afternoons we take it outside on the porch to play.
We also have a play water sink one of the kids got for a birthday. This stays outside because of the sink’s water feature.
But is a lot of fun to make grass foods, mud foods, and sand foods and use water in the yard on nice hot days.
Kitchen Sensory Bin
Wanting something more portable, indoors, and able to use independently, for her to play “kitchen” with, I decided to create a Kitchen Sensory Bin. I was wanting her to explore, create, practice some skills, and enjoy being in her “kitchen”.
We do our school work at the kitchen table, so we are all in the kitchen nearly everyday. It can be a challenge to keep the younger kids busy with learning activities while schooling the bigger kids. Hoping to reduce the amount of times my daughter pushes the chair up to the kitchen counter to run the sink when I am not right next to her, I created a Kitchen Sensory Bin she can use at the table or on the floor, for her and her little brother to explore and use as part of their school work.
We made this fun Kitchen Sensory Bin full of lots of play food, dishes, silverware, cooking stoves, sponge for cleaning, and more. The small stoves, table ware (plates, silverware, cups), and mini-foods came from a local dollar store toys. This project cost about $6. I added in some colored pompoms and beads for pretend play and practice with practical skills such as picking up with tongs & scoops and stirring with spoons, etc.
I also added a container of playdough, a rolling pin, and cookie cutters to further the sensory experiences. You can use store bought playdough or you can make homemade vanilla playdough, chocolate playdough, cinnamon playdough, pumpkin pie playdough, and more to make this lots of fun.
My daughter added in a few pony tail holders for fun. I plan to also add a table cloth, cloth napkins, and placemats so she can set her table with and she can roll these up and tie with a ribbon when not in use. add in some spices (or spice bottles with cotton soaked in the spice or extract) to enhance the sensory experience.
I already had the plastic bin on hand and just re-used it for this project. But I soon traded it for a bigger bin (too much stuff in it).
The bin also serves as a portable sink for her to wash her other kitchen props. If you don’t want to use real water in the sink, use blue felt (or blue construction paper) to make pretend water (grey felt looks like soapy water too).
If you want to make a portable stove, turn the bin upside down, and pretend to cook your food on top of it. We made our stove by taping construction paper burners and knobs on the bottom, but you can also create this stove on the lid too.
We used the Kitchen Sensory Bin for free play and exploration, counting, making patterns, sorting colors, sorting food groups, sorting hot foods and cold foods, practicing setting the table, sweet foods vs. salty or savory foods, washing dishes (put some soapy water and a sponge or rag in the bin to wash their dishes), play restaurant, play house and feed thei
r baby dolls and teddy bears, etc.
Here my son is transferring and counting popcorn (white pompoms) he made on the stove.
Basic Homemade Playdough
Chocolate Playdough Activity
Cinnamon Playdough Activity
Dramatic / Role Play using the items in the bin. Include hot pads, an apron or jacket for a chef’s coat, chef’s hat, and an egg timer, for lots of role playing fun. Set up a table / eating area with teddy bears and dolls. Pretend you are cooking for your family, a party, or at a restaurant.
Here is a printable by PreKinders that you can print off and have the kids sort healthy and unhealthy foods.
Here is a fun color sorting activity with some dishes and foods.
Here are some fun kitchen theme printables you can use to further your child’s learning and go along with their Kitchen Sensory Bin:
Cooking potatoes on the stove.
Baking Bread in the kitchen.
Spanish Kitchen Coloring Page.
Here are some fun vocabulary words, some also have pictures. Use these in pocket charts, or fun memory games, spelling games, etc.
Kitchen Vocabulary Picture Cards.
Kitchen Vocabulary Flash Cards.
Spanish Kitchen Vocabulary Words.
French Kitchen Vocabulary Words.
Kitchen Vocabulary Bingo.
Here are some place setting props.
Table Setting Placemat Craft.
Place Setting Practice Cards.
Felt Foods are a nice addition to this bin, and don’t take up much space.
Felt Food from Counting Coconuts
Here are some tutorials for turning your plastic bin into a stove for play.
Dollar Store Crafts Play Stove
Play Stove Tutorial from Delicious Ambiguity
If you have some Melissa and Doug cutting board and velcro vegetables, cake, cupcakes, etc. would add a nice experience to this bin too, but the more items you add, the bigger the bin you will need to hold it all.
After playing and exploring in your Kitchen Sensory Bin, open the real kitchen cabinets and explore some too. What can your child hold and correlate with items in her sensory bin? What about items she doesn’t have? Let her hold the whisk, or strainer, and talk about how these are helpful in the kitchen. How about opening up the spice cabinet and smelling some of the spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, coffee, etc.
Save some time to explore together, and make something fun to eat or drink to further the learning experience and your relationship.
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