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In my nearly six years as a mom, “Let’s Play Restaurant” stands the test of time. So it always makes my list of go-to activities for indoor play. It works for kids of multiple ages and can evolve as kids get older to incorporate more skills. There’s just so much to learn while playing restaurant.
You can play restaurant with minimal prep or supplies, which makes it a simple activity to pull out when you need it most. Perhaps on your third snow day of an epic winter blizzard when you’ve already watched the same movie (Hotel Transylvania 2) four times.
My boys have enjoyed playing restaurant since they could toddle around and bring us the play food we requested. Now that they’re older they can enjoy it even more by creating their own menus and practicing math while ringing up the orders.
I even found myself teaching my son life skills. For example, you can’t freak out when you work in a restaurant. You must remain calm, cool, and collected when you need your staff to find the missing coffee instead of running around yelling at them to do their job.
Playing restaurant can be as simple as making requests, having your kids bring you play food combinations, and pretending to eat it. Then repeat. But if you want to take it up a notch, here are some ideas.
First Create Your Menu
I folded a piece of drawing paper in half as an example. Then I showed him the format: picture of food, then description, then price and asked him what words he wanted to spell. I gave him a marker and sent him off to create his menu.
He drew the pictures of the food for this one. But, for younger kids who can’t write, you can take pictures of your play food and use them to create a visual menu.
Or, if you want to purchase a set of printables- try these from Pre-K Pages.
Next, Assign Roles
This might seem obvious to you, but you can involve the kids more by asking them what roles you’ll need and getting their input.
While we made the menu, my younger son wandered over with his notepad, ready to skip straight ahead to order taking, and my older son exclaimed, “He can be the waiter!”, like it was a grand epiphany. It just makes play more fun for everyone when they’re involved in the decision making and you let them take the lead.
I played customer, my oldest chose chef, and my youngest took orders.
Take Orders, Prepare the Food and Serve It
This part is pretty self explanatory and the kids will know what to do pretty instinctively. You can make it silly by ordering strange combinations or making unique requests.
Tally Up Your Bill
This step works best for kids who know a little bit of addition and you can continue to make it more complex as they get older by adding in concepts about money such as making change, not only with bills but coins as well.
We have this cash register from Learning Resources￼ that’s perfect for that!
More Play Food and Accessories We Love When We Play Restaurant
My top 3 favorite companies for play food and restaurant accessories are Melissa and Doug, Learning Resources, and Educational Insights. I’ve found that our play food and kitchen center gets constant use, year after year, and I’ve found them to be high quality and durable.
We’ve thrown out play food that came in giant sets for really cheap, because babies chewed up or smashed the cardboard. It’s better to get the good stuff right away and your kids will enjoy it for years to come.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Melissa and Doug Chef Costume
- Melissa and Doug Wooden Kitchen Accessories￼￼
- Learning Resources New Sprouts Play Food
- Chet the Cat Dishes from Educational Insights￼
- LeapFrog Cook and Play Potsy￼
Need more ideas for indoor play?
This post is part of a series called A-Z of Indoor Activities hosted by Crafty Kids at Home.
Please make sure you visit the other blogs for tons more indoor play ideas.