The inner workings of a restaurant often remain a mystery to young diners who don't see behind the kitchen doors. A restaurant theme in the preschool classroom teaches the young children about a common part of many communities. Through interactive play, real-world experiences and creative activities, preschoolers gain a better understanding of how a meal makes it to the restaurant table.
Transforming the dramatic play center into a restaurant gives the kids a hands-on way to explore the concept. A child-sized table works well for the restaurant table. Add a small piece of fabric to create a tablecloth. Local restaurants may have old menus or paper takeout menus you can use in the dramatic play area. Other options include making and laminating your own menus or writing a menu board on a piece of poster board. Aprons, hats and order pads work well as costumes for the restaurant employees. If you have a play kitchen in the classroom, the kids can use it as the restaurant kitchen. Play food, plastic plates, napkins and silverware round out the restaurant setup. The kids play the role of customers, servers and cooks.
A field trip to a nearby restaurant gives the kids a firsthand look at how a restaurant operates. If your preschool is near a restaurant, you may have the option of walking as a class to the business. The manager may allow the class to take a tour of the kitchen during a less busy time of the day. If the budget allows or the parents are willing to send money, sit down as a class at the restaurant and order a snack or meal. This allows the kids to practice their manners as they learn about restaurants.
Restaurant-themed crafts add a creative touch to the lesson plans. Instead of creating all of the restaurant props yourself, the kids get a chance to design menus, napkins and signs during craft time. Plain white napkins and fabric markers or paint allow the kids to design their own napkins to use at school or at home. You can also let the kids decorate a piece of fabric for the dramatic play tablecloths. An old paper towel tube cut into 2-inch sections works to make napkin rings. Let the kids decorate the cardboard rings with paint, construction paper, stickers and crayons.
Classroom games are another way to incorporate the restaurant theme. A restaurant-themed obstacle course keeps the kids moving. An example of a course is flipping pretend hamburgers into a skillet, jumping over pans used as hurdles, running around the table and weaving around menus spread out on the floor. A themed relay race is another active option. The kids take turns putting on a server costume and carrying a tray with food on it across the room. For a quiet game, make picture cards that the kids put in order to show what happens at a restaurant. For example, have cards that show a family reading the menu, the family ordering food, chefs cooking the food and the server bringing the food to the table. The kids lay out the cards in the order that the activities happen.
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