"what do I do? My child keeps playing in the fridge"
I think it's a really normal phase for a child to be interested in emptying things out of the fridge.
In this situation, I would get to the fridge quickly, and quietly remove eggs, anything liquid in an open container, and put them somewhere cool (sink of cold water for open milk cartons maybe?) and then I would turn the fridge off and give the child a LARGE tupperware container or washing up bowl to put the food in.
At first, you may well have to help with putting them into the bowl rather than having them strewn across the floor. Encourage child to experiment with tasting butter/cheese/vegetables/fruit (some children like eating raw onion, garlic, brussel sprouts, cabbage at this age...).
When all the food is out of the fridge, help them put it all back. Rinse and repeat.Honestly, if it wasn't for these sorts of passing interests in our children, we'd all have fridges full of archeological specimens we'd forgotten all about... (or maybe that's just me)
(and think in your mind that this exploration is not likely to last more than a month. It might be significantly less time. Anything really perishable can go in the freezer for a couple of hours)
"no, this is a terrible idea. Children should not explore in fridges"
Why are there forbidden zones which a child should not be helped to explore safely?
...those no go areas vary from person to person. For some people it's going in the fridge at all. For some people going in the fridge is ok, as long as it's with the parent controlling what they do in it (and I'm in that camp to an extent, since I'd quietly remove open yoghurt pots before the child noticed), but for some mothers the whole kitchen is a forbidden area and the child is left crying outside a stairgate.
... which means that the "need to leave alone" is not that the child needs to leave it alone for some rational universal reason.
Speeding lorry advancing at 40 miles an hour - every parent would see the middle of the road as a no go for their child at that moment - the child needs to leave the middle of the road alone in order to stay alive, and parent would be right to force their child back on the pavement in the heat of that moment. But the fridge scenario is not black and white at all.
It's a fridge not a toy. I can't see any rational person entertaining their
child by letting them into the fridge. And it has nothing to do with road safety.
If a child is really keen to get in the fridge and play with the objects in it, I think it is better to find a way for that to happen which makes both parent and child happy rather than to make child very distressed over what is actually parent's arbitrary limitation.
There are all sorts of ways of keeping the food cool while playing in and around the fridge. I'd slip meat into the freezer as soon as it came out of the fridge. I'd probably grab a bag of Tesco economy frozen peas out of the freezer (like about 60p worth of peas) and use them to form a cool cushion at the bottom of the container the food was going into. If this game looked likely to be played tomorrow as well, I'd make a HEAP of ice cubes that night so I could keep the stuff cool for no money at all. The child might even get more interested in the ice cubes than the food, at which point the fridge could be filled and shut and turned on again.
That's just in a 2 minute brainstorm. If this was a real situation in my house, I'd be putting a lot of creative energy into making a good solution for everyone because a) tantrums are exhausting for everyone, children and parents and b) what an opportunity for a child to learn all sorts of things about colours and shapes and textures and tastes and counting and stacking and... so many things our children do can be embraced as learning opportunities rather than things we have to stop them doing and c) it'll be a passing phase. The more the parent helps their child explore whatever the phase is safely and fully, the less likely the child is to want to go back to it again and again and again, when parent's back is turned, eventually finding a way past the fridge lock and destroying a week's worth of groceries.
And no, road safety has NOTHING to do with fridge locks or household safety - that was exactly my point! There's a black and white "children must not be left in the path of speeding lorries". There is no clear right and wrong here - there's no obvious "children mustn't play in fridges because they'll die" - there are only the limitations of their parents' willingness to make it possible for them to explore in this particular environment.
And as for toy/not toy - that's an arbitrary distinction too, as every child (along with any adult who has ever put a 1 year old on a kitchen floor with a metal saucepan and two wooden spoons) knows.