These items are helpful for restaurant play and can be donated by parents, bought in dollar stores or found at flea markets. Provide a box for these props to be stored.
- Play dishes or paper plates/cups
- Napkins, tablecloths, and aprons
- Silverware; real or plastic
- Plastic fake food
- Homemade menus and tablet fo order taking
- Vase with faux flowers
- Trays for serving
- Play money and a toy cash register
Make a Menu
Invite children to cut pictures of food (fruits, vegetables, dinner entrees) from magazines or newspaper food flyers. Together talk about what is good food and the selections you would find in a restaurant. Take a large sheet of construction paper and fold it in half. Help the children to select and glue the food pictures on the paper to resemble a real menu. Label the foods so children can see the written word associated with the pictures. Optional: Make several menus; a breakfast, lunch, and dinner selection.
Make your pretend restaurant special with a logo. Take a rubber stamp with a picture or design of your choice and press it onto an ink pad. Print the logo onto the paper napkins and the menu.
Setting the Table
Provide a table and at least two chairs in your learning center. Ask children to set the table so it is appealing for customers in their restaurant. First have them dress the table with a tablecloth and place a vase with flowers in the middle. Draw a place setting on paper so children have a reference guide to follow. Include directions for the placement of the plate/bowl, cup, napkin, fork and spoon. You may want to omit the plate from the table setting, as the waiter will bring the food on the plate later.
Take an Order
When pretending to be a waiter/waitress, it's fun to dress the part with an apron. Equip the "waiter/waitress" with a tablet of paper and pencil. Don't forget to have a child or two seated at the table as customers.
Pass out the menu to the customer. The waiter can present the menu and add this dramatic verbalization as well, "Good afternoon, our special today is spaghetti with meatballs. We also have pizza or delicious vegetable soup. What can I get for you?…Oh, good choice, let me just write that down." Even children who are not proficient in writing can use scribble writing and read the order back to the customer or the cook in the kitchen. This is a great activity for memory skills. Use this same slip of paper for the bill. Children can say, "Will there be anything else, sir/madam? Here's your bill."
Preschool children can now place the fake food onto plates and serve the customer carrying the tray to the table.
Paying the Bill
With the use of play money and a cash register, children can get familiar with the exchange of money for a product or service. At this young age, the understanding of exact money value is not as important as the process of paying the bill after a meal in the restaurant.
During circle time, consider reading stories that focus on eating establishments such as Working at a Restaurant by Katie Marsico and Going to a Restaurant (First Time) by Melinda Beth Radabaugh. Not only will these books entertain the children but the pictures will show them how community workers and patrons use a restaurant in real life.
Dramatic play is great for learning new skills in all types of realistic situations. This restaurant theme for preschool idea will surely satisfy your students' appetites for learning! Have fun!
- Backer, Barbara F. Terrific Tips for Preschool Teachers. Totline Publications, 1998.
- Marsico, Katie. Working at a Restaurant. Cherry Lake Publishing, 2008.
- Radabaugh, Melinda Beth. Going to a Restaurant (First Time). Heinemann Educational Books, 2003.