Dining with Toddlers

Toddler and Preschooler cooking

Social: To continue to develop skills in self-confidence, cooperation and trust. This means being in an environment that promotes children to take turns and communicate with one another.

Age Groups: ,


This restaurant activity will encourage toddlers to use pretend play to extend social greetings, express affection, and play alongside others.

You will need:

  • Table covering
  • Napkins
  • Toy dishes and cutlery (include multicultural props, if available)
  • Plastic foods from different cultures
  • Menus (food/grocery magazine cut outs onto paper)
  • Child-size tables and chairs


  1. Set the table with everyday items in your home such as table covering, dishes, and cutlery to support the children’s home cooking experience. You can also set this outside if weather permits.
    • Arrange the props accordingly to the areas (kitchen and dining table) so your toddler can choose to pretend to cook and serve food or pretend to be a customer.
  2. To begin, sit down with your child in a quiet area and begin talking about the items (i.e. spoons, fork, plates, cups, etc.) you might see on a table and the roles in the restaurant (i.e. chef, customers, and servers).
    • You might want to read a book below under Recommended Readings.
  3. 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”.
  4. 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”).
Accessibility IconThe accessibility icon suggests tips, such as materials or tasks, which will make an activity easier for children with a range of abilities to practice skills that support social, emotional, gross motor, fine motor and intellectual developmental milestones.


  • Set the play area with kitchen and restaurant-like materials
  • Develop new vocabulary and greetings (i.e. please, thank you, appetizer, and dessert)


  • Provide restaurant atmosphere
  • Learn to explore the multiple roles in a restaurant (i.e. cook, server, host, customer) and setting items (i.e. cutlery, bowls, plates, cups)

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. For example, “One plate in front of a chair Zach” to model plate setting.
  • Post pictures of foods from each food group and from different cultures to encourage children’s curiosity and to help them build their vocabulary.

Recommended Reading

  • Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin
  • A series by Amy Wilson Sanger including: Yum Yum Dim Sum, First Book of Sushi, Let’s Nosh, A Little Bit of Soul Food, Hola Jalapeno, and Mangia, Mangia. These will introduce children to foods from various cultures and give them new words to include in their dramatic play experiences.

Areas of Development: , , ,

Activity Category: , ,

Everyday Moments: