Dining with Preschoolers
Social: to learn to work co-operatively with a partner or within a group as well as taking turns.
This is an activity that will encourage children to play make-believe games such as cooking or dining at a restaurant.
You will need:
- Table covering
- Toy dishes and cutlery (include multicultural props, if available)
- Plastic foods from different cultures (many educational materials are available) or play dough that children can mould into food for pretend play
- Child-size tables and chairs
- Prior to the activity, you can make menus by sticking magazine cut outs onto paper. Set the table with everyday items in your home such as table covering, dishes, and cutlery to support the children’s cooking experience.
- Arrange the props so the areas are clear to children where they can choose to pretend to cook and serve food, and others will pretend to be customers.
- Sit down with your child in a quiet area and begin talking about what items (i.e. spoons, fork, plates, cups, etc.) you see on a table and the roles in the restaurant (i.e. chef, customers, servers). Wait for children’s response.
- OR choose a book below under Taking Time to Talk
- Bring the children to your restaurant area. Encourage children to take turns and play co-operatively. For example, “I like how Liam is pouring tea for everyone” and “Rebecca took away Liam’s cup after he finished his tea”.
- You can join in children’s play and role model the kind of language a server or customer might use (i.e. “First, I would like an appetizer”).
- You are now ready to begin this activity!
Click Here For Accessibility Tips
Some children need support developing conversation skills. These tips will encourage your child to make believe a public setting and become more comfortable talking with other people.
- Books or pictures of different restaurants inside and outside
Introduce the activity by thinking out loud. For example, you might say "Let's eat out, what are some restarants?'
Show pictures of restaurants familiar to your child
Using pictures or books of restaurants, guide your child to name some typical objects that are found in restaurants. For example, you might point at a picture of a restaurant table and say "What are some things on a restaurant table that people eat with?"
Support your child's imagination by taking on a role as a restarant waiter. Forexample, you might say "Hi I am your waiter today, Here is a menu, what would like to eat? I can suggest chicken fingers." Be sure to include your child's favourites foods, that is what pretend play is for!)
Nurture, Explore & Share
- If you think out loud as you look at pictures of restaurants
- Your child will feel confident to share their thoughts
Nurture, Explore & Share
- if you pretend to be a waiter in your child's play
- Your child will become familiar of what to do at a restaurant
- Spend time with your child by engaging in the activity with them and taking on a role
- Feel encouraged to practice social skills including co-operating, waiting patiently, and using polite terms
- Re-enact a restaurant experience
- Feel free to explore different roles such as a customer, chef, manager, waiter or host
- Let your child know different areas of a restaurant experience (i.e. food, washing dishes and cutleries)
- Build their language skills, and learn new vocabulary
Enriching Learning Through the Everyday Moments
- Bring in a variety of plastic foods or containers to support the cooking experience (i.e. cuisines such as Indian, Spanish, Chinese, Greek, etc.) so they can explore different ingredients and food.
- Visit a restaurant so children can meet the people who work there, and learn appropriate social skills used when dining out.
- Encourage children to help with tasks like setting the table such as placing napkins on the table.
- Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin. [Food, Restaurants, Culture]