Guidecraft Sorting Food Tray Toys - Review

According to the American Heart Association, "about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States." Processed foods and foods high in fat and calories are the main component in too many children's diets. We absolutely must begin changing the way we teach children about food and I'm so happy that Guidecraft has given me new educational tools for this. The Sorting Food Trays have become the hottest toy in my daycare classroom and they are great examples of healthy food choices. There are six different trays to choose from - Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, plus a Japanese meal, an Italian meal, and a Mexican meal.

The tray itself is made of wood and measures 11"x14" so it's a bit larger than a usual puzzle. It is kind of like a puzzle in that each piece fits in a specific place, but it's multi-dimensional because the plates on the trays also come out, and the food comes off the plate.
As a class, we explored each tray individually at first, starting with the Breakfast, then Lunch, then Dinner, naming the different items on the tray. We talked about healthy foods and how they help give us "fuel" so we can play and learn. The pieces are chunky and easy to grasp and hold so even the toddlers can enjoy these toys.
Using all the pieces of three of the American food trays, we sorted all the items into food groups. Then we worked in small groups to see who could put together their tray the fastest. I then put the three Sorting Food Trays into the manipulatives center to see how the children interacted with the toys during their unstructured play time.
The older children immediately began playing "school lunch time" and sat the younger children down for lunchtime. Following their mealtime prayer, the "teachers" began to pass out the trays of food, hovering over the children until they were finished, then made sure they asked to be excused from the table. It all looked strangely familiar to me!

The next day, I instead pulled out the three international meals, one at a time. Some of the Japanese, Mexican and Italian foods were foods we already eat, so we named the foods we knew and then learned about the foods that were new. They excitedly discovered rice is popular in Mexico and Japan. The Japanese chopsticks were fun to try but very tricky. Then we looked on a map to find Mexico, Italy and Japan.
During free play, the children set up a "restaurant" and offered each other menus we made from paper and crayons, took orders on a little notebook, and delivered meals to the table for each other. All of the pieces are made of wood, so they will stand up to many years of love and learning from the children. We will be using them for manners lessons next week!
You can purchase these Sorting Food Trays at http://guidecraft.com, as well as many other wonderful, high-quality learning toys. For a chance to win all six of these trays, visit Teach Preschool, one of my fellow Guidecraft Educators, to enter before May 12.
Disclosure: I received these products at no charge in exchange for my honest review.

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