Do you ever drive by a business and think to yourself, "I wonder what on earth is in that place?" And then continue on your merry way, passing that aforementioned place for literally years, until finally one day you find yourself with a few minutes extra time and a couple of cranky kiddos, and decide on a whim to run inside to check it out? And then that place turns out to be pretty darn amazing? Well. This happened to me last month, and today we're going to talk about what I found.
Valley Restaurant Equipment!
1000 Maxwell Road
Eugene, OR 97404
This intriguing little gem is set far back off Maxwell, near the Prairie Road end of the road. It's got a big gravel parking lot in front, and there are often big semi trucks parked there (bonus for the littles!).
So this place is a business that caters to restaurants: they buy, sell, and trade everything you would need to own and run an eatery: chairs, microwaves, pitchers, silverware, pop dispensers, neon signs...EVERYTHING. Now maybe you're wondering why on earth you would need to visit a restaurant supply store when you already spent most of your everloving life in your kitchen preparing food for the people who live with you and expect you to feed their insatiable appetites. Here's why:
1. Just walking around the place is seriously impressive. Free entertainment right here. They have rows and rows of unusual things for kiddos to feast their eyes on. You can walk by a cooler and brainstorm what sorts of yummy desserts were once sold in there. You can check out the giant gas powered six burner stoves and discuss how many hamburgers you could fry up with it. Lots of very cool stuff.
2. There are two cats wandering around, so that's fun.
3. There are several work areas where employees repair equipment and machines. This is a dream come true for any little who is fascinated with tools.
4. Everyone who works there is so friendly! They were all very tolerant of my grumpy yet super interested kiddos.
5. They are open at 9 am, which is an hour earlier than most businesses. Need to get out of the house? Valley is your answer.
6. There are some seriously awesome things for sale that you just might need to take home with you. Looking for sensory, hands on, manipulative type tools? Valley's got them! And they're at better prices than you'll find at thrift stores. They've got high quality stuff that will stand up to rough and tumble kiddos. Here are some goodies that my boys and I discovered on a few recent trips:
The big blue trays are for my big boy's Legos. The awesome old school lunch trays are for separating Legos, sorting craft supplies, playing with beans/rice/whatever, or maybe even eating! Those black tongs are expensive on kid websites, and are super great for practicing fine motor skills.
On a return visit, we scored all of these wonderful restaurant tools for pretend play. We have already taken out the printed pages from the menus and put in our own choice offerings. This would be a perfect chance to work on so many skills with your kiddos:
- Math - figuring out prices
- Writing, spelling, word choice
- Fine motor skills - you could give them an old magazine or the ads from the Sunday paper and let them cut out pictures of food to glue into the menu.
We have played many games of restaurant already and are loving taking turns being the customer, server, and chef. Since we also found the order notepad and the check holder thing (is there a name for that?!) it all feels very official.
The spoons and scoops and bowl and syrup decanter are just for fun. :)
Here's a picture of how we've been using some of the stuff to keep mama from going crazy - I mean the boys busy - on gray days:
A little water, a few ice cubes, whatever random stuff I manage to pull out of the recycling cupboard (see THIS post) and voila - they are occupied for long enough to allow me to heat up the frozen pizza we're having for supper. I mean cook a super healthy meal with actual vegetables. Obvs.
Another day I was getting ready to throw out a whole pot of rice that I had apparently REALLY overcooked (Who messes up rice? Honestly!) when I thought about letting the boys play with it first. Might as well get some use out of it right? So we pulled out some bowls and other kitchen goodies and they went to town. See that pitcher my big boy is using? Valley Restaurant Supply sells those, and they are wonderful.
Can we talk for one quick minute about how to manage messy play like this? After a lot of trial and error, I've figured out a pretty good system. So take yourself to the Dollar Tree and buy about half a dozen of the plastic tablecloths. Cut them in half. Then when you're ready to use one, just grab it and go. Once the play is done, strain all the water down the drain, dump all the solid stuff on the tablecloth, throw all the dishes in the sink for the magical dish fairy to deal with, and carefully roll up the tablecloth and throw it away. I realize this is sort of wasteful, but for me, knowing an easy clean up is coming makes me much more willing to say yes when my kiddos ask to "cook" or "make a messy meal" or whatever. :)
Also. It goes without saying that managing your mess will be much more simple if your littles are stripped down to their underoos or diapers.
Anywho, please stop by Valley Restaurant Equipment. I promise they're not paying me to say that! They were just so friendly and local and offered so much great stuff. Well priced high quality manipulative toys for ALL THE CHILDREN! So go already. For reals. And tell them Megan sent you.