Thursday, August 6, 2015

DIY Play "Cakes" from Your Recycle Bin!

In honor of summer vacation, I decided to write a series sharing some homemade toys that I have made for and with my daughter over the years.  It's funny: she has plenty of store bought toys, and yet she has always gravitated most to the homemade ones (and she often creates her own).  Maybe we humans are just hardwired to be drawn to items crafted by loving, local hands?

We made these pretend "cakes" several years ago with plastics from our recycle bin and craft supplies that we had on hand.  They are so fun and easy to make; the possibilities are endless! Whether globbed with glitter, crusted with confetti, or piled with pom-poms, these cakes will never fall!  They're perfect for pretend play (bakery, anyone?), and I think that they would also make adorable DIY props for portrait photography.

In lieu of a tedious step-by-step tutorial that will trigger traumatic memories of your last visit to the DMV, here's a photo that breaks down one "cake" into its "ingredients":


Basically, the "cake" can be made from an overturned sour cream container, Greek yogurt container, deli container, Parmesan container, or similar-sized plastic container.  The "cake stand" can be made from anything wide and flat--such as an oatmeal lid or small Styrofoam plate--paired with an overturned plastic cup, large cap (eg: mouth wash), or one of those little round take-out containers used for salad dressings and salsa.

You will need hot glue and a hot glue gun to assemble the larger components and to add the 3-dimensional decorations, such as pipe cleaners and pom-poms.  Dollar Tree is an affordable source for these embellishments if you're on a budget.  For the record, I think the "cake stands" exponentially increase the cuteness factor here, if we're getting scientific about it.

When we did this project, my daughter was around 4 years old.  My job was hot gluing, and my daughter did the painting and decorating.  If I were to attempt this project with a larger group of kids, I would use hot glue to pre-glue a bunch of "cakes" onto "cake stands", drape every kid in an art smock, and then let them loose with acrylic craft paint, Elmer's glue, ribbon, felt, scissors, silk flowers, sequins, and paper confetti (perhaps pausing to let the paint dry before gluing on the other decorations).


I have a friend whose only daughter is now grown.  That friend once told me that she used to refer to pretend play as, "The Dreaded 'P'" when her daughter was young, because pretend play can sometimes feel like work to adults!  Her daughter would rush into the house after preschool and breathlessly call, "Mommy, Mommy, can we play 'The Dreaded 'P' now?"

If you have young kids and struggle sometimes with "The Dreaded 'P'", here's an idea for a fun way to play with these pretend cakes together.  Have your little one pretend to be the shopkeeper (use play money if you want to incorporate stealth math), and you can play the silly characters coming into the bakery in urgent need of cakes for a variety of ridiculous reasons.  When we played "bakery", my default characters were usually a cowboy, a teenage skateboarder, a wealthy lady (complete with my embarrassing attempt at a British accent), a baby (who always finagled free baked goods), and (my daughter's favorite) an elderly lady who had misplaced her glasses and believed she was in the pet store.

Have fun and be silly with this fun, faux food!