So here is what about 5-bucks worth of fun looks like.
Pictured are Dollar Tree plastic cake plates that look like real china plates ($1 for 6), small crystal-ish plastic bowls ($1 for 4) that are actually really nice and some fancy 12 ounce cups ($1 for 12). All the tableware was in the same area as their other themed tableware sets. Also pictured are two pool noodle parts (used about half of one orange flower shape and half of one blue round pool noodle) and one red kick board aka boogie board that is about 1" thick and wave shaped.
A serrated steak knife works well to cut the foam down to size. Scissors work for cleaning up corners or for really small pieces. This is a glue free project.
Next trip to D.T. I plan on picking up a yellow and green pool noodle to make pineapple and kiwi chunks for the 'fruit salad' (pictured below). All the foam components come from U.S. manufacturers which is cool.
The drinks are made by cutting one 5-6 inch section of pool noodle, filling in the middle with an extra scrap chunk of noodle and then slipping them into the cups (one small segment is plenty to fill the hole).
The blue 'ice cubes' were made by slicing a 1 inch section from a round noodle, laying it flat and cutting the slice into four pieces. Each piece is 1/2 a semi-circle.
The 'steak' and 'watermelon' chunks came from the flat parts of the boogie board. I used a brown Sharpie to trace the shape of the T-bone and white nail polish to fill in the bone and fatty parts. The Sharpie also worked well to draw in lines on the 'orange' segments and seeds on the 'watermelon'.
We also cut a long, flat strip of foam boogie board into triangles for watermelon wedges with one green painted edge for the rind. They are about 5 inches tall which works well with our set of dishes.
The segments of citrus fruit were cut from 3/4 inch slices of a flower-shaped pool noodle. Each slice was then placed flat on the cutting board and divided into 5 individual petals or chunks. The kids used thinner slices of flowers to garnish the fancy fruit drinks they made.
We took a 6" segment of flower pool noodle and cut it long ways down into five long, individual petal sections, then cut each of these tall-skinny sections into about 4 or 5 carrot sticks per petal. A yellow noodle could be used for french fries or a green noodle could be used for celery sticks.
'Raspberries' can be made by cutting small chunks of foam and gently skinny the slick outer edge of the foam with a knife to expose the courser inside before using a sharpy to highlight the texture. Be careful with this step. The foam is pretty wobbly, so go easy and tread carefully.
Overall I think we will use more pool noodles in the future to make more pretend play food. The foam is a really easy material to manage. We have a good amount left over to make more foods or drinks with. The coloring and cutting activity keep everyone busy for over an hour. They really got into complying different food combinations too.
Next time I would skip the painting of the watermelon rinds as it was really messy waiting for the paint to dry and just glue some green felt on the edge of the triangle or color the edge with a green market to avoid the messy-factor all together.