How to make pretend play food for children

Updated April 17, 2017

Children love pretending to cook, and play food allows them to play and practice without making a mess. Homemade play food is less expensive to make than buying plastic or cardboard play foods. Clay food is also more durable than play food made from cardboard. Papier mache and balloons allow you to create perfectly round foods. Allow your children to help you in the kitchen while making the play food items. Children can participate in painting and decorating their pieces.

Clay play food

Mix the salt and cornstarch in a cooking pan. Slowly add 175 ml (3/4 cup) of water to the pan, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cook this on a low heat until the mixture becomes stiff, in approximately two to three minutes.

Pour the mixture into a pie tin and let it cool. Press the clay with your hands until it forms a solid ball. Form it into shapes of food, such as small balls for peas, thick snake-like shapes for bananas or flat discs for pancakes. Use a wooden toothpick or your fingers to add indentions and texture to the play food. Let the play food rest uncovered for at least two days, so the clay hardens.

Paint the pretend play food items according to their natural colours, using tempura paint. Let the paint dry completely before providing the pretend food for play time.

Papier mache play food

Tear newspaper into 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide strips in various lengths, and put them aside. Mix 250 ml (1 cup) of flour with 250 ml (1 cup) water in a plastic bucket. Stir with a wooden stick until it's smooth and free of clumps.

Cut flat shapes from cardboard, such as a square for sliced bread or a free-form for a fried egg. Blow up water balloons to make round foods, such as citrus, apples or whole eggs.

Dip a piece of newspaper into the papier mache paste. Remove excess paste with your fingers. Form the newspaper into the shapes of different foods. Continue making a single layer of paper on each food piece. Add more layers and create bumps and ridges, using the newspaper. Let the pieces dry in an open space for at least two days. Paint with acrylic paint to customise each food item. The paint must dry completely before they are ready for play.


If the clay begins to harden while working with it, or you need to attach a separate clay piece to your object, moisten your fingers with water and rub on the area.


Let clay and papier mache play food items dry completely before painting, or your objects could mould or fall apart.

Supervise children while they're playing with the fake food. Some maybe tempted to try to eat the pieces.

Things You'll Need

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) cornstarch
  • 250 ml (1 cup) salt
  • 900 ml (3 3/4 cup) water
  • Small saucepan
  • Pie tin
  • Wooden spoon
  • Newspaper
  • 250 ml (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • Plastic bucket
  • Stick
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Water balloons
  • Acrylic paint and brushes
  • 3 Wooden toothpicks
  • Tempura paint and brushes
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About the Author

Miranda Brumbaugh enjoys covering travel, social issues, foster care, environmental topics, crafting and interior decorating. She has written for various websites, including National Geographic Green Living and Dremel. Brumbaugh studied in Mexico before graduating with a Master of Science in sociology from Valdosta State University.