Sometimes when I am doing something a brilliant idea comes to me about what to do in my classroom. Today I was substituting in middle school, sitting there supporting a student in math, when this idea of having a restaurant for dramatic play came to mind. I also thought of all the things children could potentially learn too.
This is how I create restaurant play in my classroom:
I would begin by setting up a restaurant area next to or near the dramatic house area. I usually try to set it up with the children, and the children add to it throughout. I allow free play in the restaurant for at least one day, observing what the children do and how much they know about restaurants.
I begin bringing the restaurant theme back to the children at circle time. I make a graph of who had gone to some local restaurants. I ask what they noticed about going, attempting at this point to talk about the menu and who worked there. Together we make a simple restaurant menu on a dry erase board with prices, usually 1 to 3 dollars so they can practice adding to 5.
When it is free play time I role model how to order, how to take an order, and how to pay, we always have play money that I have laminated.
Throughout the week we have daily questions about restaurants. Questions like: What’s you favorite restaurant? What do you like to order for breakfast (lunch; dinner)? I have columns of local familiar restaurants using their actual signage, simple 2 to 3 choices, up to 4 depending on age and development and I try to have pictures or I draw pictures so every child can participate at independently at their own level.
Vocabulary words we get to know and use are: Restaurant, menu, prices, dollars, “Order Here”, “Pick Up”, wait staff, bus person, cook, customer.
Skills children will work on are: pre-reading and actual reading, pre-math and actual math (specifically adding to 5 or identifying numbers to 5), writing, language skills, turn taking, sequencing, and cooperation.
Extension ideas for Restaurant play: Make it Chinese, Mexican or Pizza restaurant, make it a coffee shop or café. Add local take out menus, invite a chef or wait staff to visit and talk about what they do and how they use reading, writing and math skills in their job. Make lunch time a restaurant, invite other classes for a lemonade stand, or snack restaurant. Really the sky’s the limit and the children will come up with many of their own ideas.