Kids pretending to take orders from a menu

Active Play

Play Idea: Create Your Own Café

Dec 31, 2017

We pride ourselves on imagination, but from time to time it feels like we’re dredging the bottom of the barrel when it comes to creative playtime ideas for and with the kids. Plus, we’re always on the hunt for activities that will build their life skills in subtle and fun ways. So we were overjoyed when the kids came up with the solution to the situation all on their own — they developed their own unique café, including a complete menu, prices and management structure. Here are the activities (and sneaky skill builds) that go along with the fun.

Create a Café

Making a

First step is to design and name the café, and give it a theme. It could be a chocolate restaurant or a diner just for kids. The café could serve a little bit of everything, or have a focus (all cheese, all the time? Not speaking from experience, or anything….). It’s up to the kids to figure out what they want to offer and how to describe the menu items and name of the establishment. Lots of great language skills and descriptive writing techniques are in use here. What are some of the most delicious items on the menu? Creativity flows here as kids dream big and think about what is appealing — or disgusting.

Real Life Art

Child draws out menu.

Kids will have a blast designing the menu, drawing photos of food items, and decorating the café. Get out the paints, pastels and pencil crayons and simply let creativity spill forth. Food magazines can provide inspiration, and even some design and décor magazines to choose a look for the nook. This fosters big picture visualization as well as attention to finer details.

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Pricing and Management

Little girl looks at menu.

How much for that gourmet grilled cheese? Who owns the place, and what’s a manager? In setting the prices for the café, kids will learn about math and value. And hammering out a basic sharing of management duties teaches them to appreciate how to manage people, property and consider the consequences of decisions. They might not be so quick to want to be “owner” once they realize how much they’re responsible for!

Role Play

Young boy takes his little sister's order.

Once the set-up is done, it’s time for the customers. That could be parents or playmates. Using an order pad, available from paper supply stores can be a fun  touch, but any paper will do. Older wait staff can write out orders, while younger ones can repeat them back to the “cook”. It becomes a fun memory game and also teaches follow-through as they come back to serve the “food”, clear and then ask for other requests. Play food, pictures of dishes, a few real-life concoctions, or good old magical make believe work well for representing the meals, snacks and dishes. When it comes time for the bill, the classic Fisher Price cash register is a great toy to use here as well, if you have one.

Conversation and People Skills

Brother-sister duo getting along!

Restaurant customers can make this whole activity fun by commenting on the whole experience, from the name of the café to the most creative or delicious-sounding menu items. They can also remark on all of the work that goes into a team effort like a restaurant, from printing the menu to cooking the food and washing the dishes. Play money can make this game fun as well, and customers can leave a tip and help with math skills when making change. In turn, the wait staff, cooks, managers and owners (with kiddos often playing more than one role) will offer up their vision, answer questions, try to describe menu items, and all around work on their social and people skills – and then maybe get a chance to play customer next round so that they can relax a bit!

The café game is a favourite in our home, and works with a minimum amount of materials. It offers great returns in creativity, math, language and planning skills — but most of all it’s a bit of creative fun, and that’s the most important thing.

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Article Author Janice Quirt
Janice Quirt

Janice Quirt is a yoga teacher and freelance writer who lives in the beautiful hills of the Headwaters in Orangeville, Ontario, with her blended family of seven. With kids spanning a decade in age, there are always some shenanigans on the go, and she loves being in the middle of it all. Janice loves sharing nature, eco-living and new experiences with her family and friends, as well as a fine cup of coffee and a good book.

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