Play Food out of Recyclables

Just to put my precarious emotional state into perspective, I just realized that it was two years ago that I gave my son his first bath in a baby tub.  Now he is counting and learning his colors and doing quantum physics and having grandbabies. 

Well, not quite yet.  But it sure feels like that’s how fast time is going.

He has definitely moved into the stage of wanting to do whatever he sees Momma and Daddy doing.  So for my son’s big Christmas present this year, we got him a play kitchen.  My mom found it on Craigslist for $8, and it’s still in great condition.  Other smaller gifts we are giving him relate to the play kitchen:  an apron and chef’s hat, some cooking utensils, and some plastic play food. 
Since we moved earlier this year, we no longer have access to a recycling program.  I always feel a little guilty about throwing away plastic bottles and food containers.  Okay, not so much guilty as scared that Al Gore is going to show up threatening to sic ManBearPig on me for not reducing my carbon footprint.  To help me sleep at night, I found a way to turn some of those bottles into additional (and educational) play food for my son.
To make play food out of recyclables, you will need:
empty, clean plastic bottles
craft paint
spray adhesive (or some other strong glue)
paper scraps
foam letter stickers
First, you will need to wash and dry the bottles you are going to use.  I used creamer bottles, a bbq sauce bottle, small vitamin milk bottles and some plastic spice jars.
Decide what food or drink you are going make out of each clear container.  Choose the appropriate paint color for what you are making.  Put a small amount of paint in the container, put the lid on, and swirl the paint around so that it covers the inside of the bottle.  You can mix paint colors right in the bottle if you need to.  Remove the cap and set the bottle upsidedown on a paper plate or newspaper so that the excess paint can drain out.  Let dry.
For the spice jars, I simply filled them 3/4 full with uncooked rice.  It’s a cheap way to get the jars to make a realistic noise when they are shaken.
I toyed around with the idea of making fancy, realistic looking labels for each bottle.  Then I realized that my son could care less whether there was a fancy photoshopped label on his toys or not.  I decided to make the labels very simple, with one preschool-appropriate word on each label.  That way he can get more letter recognition, and maybe even start to recognize words like “milk” and “juice.” 
I just used scrap paper, spray adhesive and some foam letters I got at the dollar store to finish off the play food.  The spray adhesive worked really well to secure the caps to the bottles.  You want to make sure the caps are on tight because you don’t want your little one chewing on the paint inside the bottles.
I glued the paper to the bottle and added the letters.  Super simple.
I am sure that there are ways to make the bottles prettier or fancier, but I am happy with the way they turned out.  I think the labels are going to be a great way to do letter-recognition with him, and I am really looking forward to seeing him do some imaginative play.  But it makes me a little sad that he is getting so big.

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  1. says

    What a wonderful idea! I completely agree, simple is better in terms of the labels.I'm in my 40s, and I still have my wooden Creative Playthings kitchen cupboard, ironing board, and wooden toaster — complete with wooden toast that pops up! (Ironically, I don't own a REAL iron — I can't remember the last time I ironed something!)

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