Literacy Spot #46: Restaurants, Cafes and Sandwich Bars!

Setting up an imaginative play restaurant, cafe or sandwich bar is a wonderful way to engage children with all forms of literacy – speaking, listening, (pre-) reading and (pre-) writing. Plus it is easy to do at home or at preschool!  In fact, this sandwich shop is the latest invitation to play that I have set up for Immy and it took less than 15 minutes to put together.

restautant literacy playMenu
Make up your own simple menu with pictures and words for pre-readers (it doesn’t need to be fancy, young children appreciate you making the effort to encourage their play more than your drawing skills!) Or use a takeaway menu from your own local restaurant or cafe.  Laminating your menu will mean it lasts longer.

literacy play

sandwich shop literacy play ideasSpecials Board
Add a blackboard or whiteboard for recording daily specials.

Every restaurant or cafe needs a kitchen. Don’t worry if you don’t have a commercial play kitchen, a box kitchen works just as well and you’ll find instructions for how to make one here.

To extend the play potential of your restaurant, why not explore different cuisines?  Indian, Chinese, Malay, Mexican, a Sushi train…there are so many possibilities! Start with those your family already enjoys, or introduce new cuisines in this playful manner to familiarise your child with the food choices available before visiting a real restaurant together.  Theme your restaurant simply by adding small touches like chopsticks and noodle bowls for a Chinese restaurant. I find the discount variety stores are great for adding these little touches cheaply.

preschool literacy play ideasDress ups
Have even more fun by adding a few simple dress ups, like an apron, notepad and pen for the waitstaff. Plus a sombrero in the case of a Mexican restaurant!

Early literacy learning

What is Childhood 101′s Literacy Spot? It is a weekly reminder of the importance of young children learning playfully as each week I share one idea for playing around with literacy, taken from my many years working as an early childhood teacher. Visit the previous Literacy Spot posts for more fun ideas for playing with literacy.

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  1. This is my girls favourite pretend play. Our cubby house is the restaurant, the girls write menu’s, take bookings (I always book a table for one alfresco, occasionally I get seated inside for fine dining!), cook on the Dora kitchen, ‘order up’ and provide ‘service’. Many wonderful inventions come out of the kitchen albeit a bit plastic!! They also have a cash register setup – I have to pay for my meal before I leave!!!!

  2. Great job at really teaching the community about the importance of play and healthy development! It is truly magic what goes on in our children as they play! From problem solving, exercising their fine and gross motor skills to building on their literacy and math skills! Great blog!

  3. My little Immy has a ‘Healthy Cafe’ set up in the playroom at the moment. It all started after a trip to China town (we live in Manchester- UK) where we went into the supermarkets and bought a rice steamer and chop sticks. We collected restaurant menus and got out all the napkins and napkin rings at home that I never use! We have added different aprons, balti dishes, our play till and even a vase of flowers! Endless CLL, KUW, PSED, PSRN opportunities.

  4. Such a great idea.

    I’m really looking forward to trying some of these ideas out over the holidays with my boys and getting into a routine of fun activities with them.

  5. Thanks for the inspiring ideas. We used them today, particularly as it was another wet day. We added our cash register and a “cafe” and it was a good way for the kids to cooperate and take turns being the shop keeper and customer.

  6. What a wonderful play time incorporating literacy. I did this to my kitchen permanately – turned it into a diner – and the kids love it. They love taking orders and writing specials on the board. See it here:
    I love your sombrero idea for a mexican restaurant. We need to explore different cultural restaurants more often. Great idea! Saw this link posted on twitter.


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