Update: now that the days are warmer, we can play restaurant in the gardens and used the sandbox and water to “cook.” Oh my, what a mess but so much fun, and it was easy to clean up. Because I was working with young beginners, I used a menu that I made myself in order to keep the vocabulary simple and give space to focus on forming complete sentences. Here’s the link to the menu, feel free to use it. Happy summertime pretending!

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A fun interactive game to play with children is restaurant.  I introduce a few key phrases which I insist that the students say correctly, and then everything else is just for fun and I don’t correct them when they are playing.  This is also a good game when you have mixed ages or mixed levels of English, because you can tailor the required speaking to the level of the student.  For example, I am very happy when my three and four year old students says “I want hamburger” and points to the hamburger on the menus.  However when a second grader with a higher English level is playing then he/she must say “I want to order/to eat/to have a/the hamburger” and “I’ll have a juice and a salad, tooRestaurant-Dramatic-Play-menu

It’s easy to set up a restaurant, and children will fill in anything that is missing with their imaginations.  I usually use a visual menu with pictures of food items. I make my own menu with images when there are certain vocabulary words that I want to incorporate, but a much easier way is to print this free menu from over at the kindergarten connection. It has great pictures and all of the prices are in whole numbers so if you want to work on numbers in your lesson you can as well.  To set up the game use what you have such as table, chairs, play food, dishes, glasses, a pitcher of water, etc.  What you don’t have just let the children imagine.  They have no problem receiving an imaginary bowl of macaroni and cheese, and then pretending to eat it. Another option is to have the children draw the food items, or to copy and cut them out from the menu. The options are endless!

a pizza, drawn and cut out by a six year old student
A pizza by a six year old student.

Before the game begins I do a vocabulary lesson, on what I expect the students to speak correctly or words that they need to understand in order to play.  Then I start out as the server to get the game going, and say something like “welcome to the Silly Spaghetti restaurant, here is your menu.  I’ll be back in a few minutes to take your order.” Pause, and let them look at the menu for a minute or two then “What would you like to eat?”  I expect them to respond with the vocabulary and sentances we worked on previously. However, I don’t focus too much on perfection, because I want them to get into the game and to really imagine that they are at a restaurant. The more they can relax and get into the game the more confidant they will become in speaking English.

This is such a great game because you can adapt it for one student up to an entire class, you just need to be a bit creative. Have fun, and let me know how you adapted the idea to your student(s).

PS. I just have to say, if I had money to spend on this lesson, I would order the Malissa and Doug star diner restaurant play set because it’s absolutely darling!  

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