A Mock Restaurant
One afternoon, my older two girls asked if they could create a “restaurant” for their younger sisters. They set up a small table in our living room with stools around it and a tablecloth on top. My 11-year-old made French toast, while my 8-year-old took orders. They had so much fun with it that they asked if they could do it for their friends on another day. That’s when I realized the learning potential for this game.
I invited my friends’ four daughters, who range in age from 12 to 3, over for lunch. The girls immediately went into planning mode for this grand event.
Sunshine, my oldest, created a simple menu using Microsoft Word. She and her sister Lily decided upon the name Dawn Café for their little restaurant. Most of the items on their menu were breakfast items, as that’s what Sunshine has most experience cooking.
Once Sunshine created her menu, I went over it with her. She had categories for appetizers, entrees, and drinks; I suggested we keep all the items within a breakfast theme (so we eliminated “sandwiches”). I helped her with formatting and spelling, then we printed the menus. (She also wanted to laminate them, but we didn’t get around to doing that.)
Lessons: For this part of the restaurant, Sunshine learned about graphic design. We discussed branding (what sort of restaurant she wanted and what to call it), and also considered what food items were likely to sell. We could have taken this further by polling family and friends about favourite foods, or creating a logo.
Who Does What
The girls chose roles for their restaurant. Sunshine had already decided to be the chef and Lily the waitress, but as we prepped for their friends’ arrival, 5-year-old Jade wanted a job too. Lily assigned her to the role of hostess.
On the actual day, Jade greeted her friends and sat them at the tables. Then she realized her job was done… and got upset. Sunshine and Lily stayed busy cooking food and serving it to their friends.
Lessons: We talked about how many people are involved in running a successful restaurant. Different roles involved different skills and tasks. It gave the girls a chance to think about what career skills they may need for different jobs.
Before her friends arrived, I encouraged Sunshine to do some food prep. Even if it was to be a restaurant-style experience, her friends wouldn’t want to wait too long for their food. Sunshine made pancake batter and mixed up eggs and milk for French toast. She also made lemonade.
When her friends arrived, none of them ordered French toast. We ended up eating that for supper. There were also several moments when food wasn’t quite ready at the time Sunshine or Lily planned.
Lessons: We talked about planning ahead. This is relevant not only for chefs, but also for other areas of life. What could I do now to make a task or activity later easier? And what happens when that task or activity doesn’t go exactly as planned, despite the prep?
While Sunshine prepped the food, Lily prepped the tables. We used a round coffee table for the younger kids (who would sit on the floor around it) and a folding table with dining room chairs for the other table. Lily found tablecloths and even colouring books and crayons, just like a restaurant.
Lessons: This activity taught Lily about hospitality. How would we create a welcoming space for her friends? Where would everyone sit? What would they want to do while they waited for their food? What needed to be ready for them to eat (cutlery, etc.)?
This also led us to consider things we usually don’t notice when arriving at a restaurant. Often, we take décor, utensils, condiments and other things at the table for granted.
The Restaurant Opens
My friend’s daughters arrived at noon on Monday for their lunch at the Dawn Café. As the girls put into action everything they had planned, I remained in the background, observing and offering tips or help as they needed.
A few incidences caused learning opportunities. One of the guests accused Sunshine of licking her finger while cooking. Sunshine denied the accusation, leading to a “yes you did” “no I didn’t!” argument until I stepped in. I had Sunshine wash her hands again (even if she didn’t need to) and reminded her about kitchen cleanliness. Later, we also talked about hospitality and how the guest is always right. Even if they make an inaccurate or unfair accusation, we make sure they are happy and comfortable.
Towards the end of the restaurant, all the girls except one had finished eating and gone off to play. Lily served her last guest her last pancake and then started to leave the room as well. I asked her to remain with her friend. She wasn’t happy about that, so later we talked about how her guest may have felt sitting alone in a room, and how to show hospitality.
After their friends had gone home, I chatted with them a bit more about what happened at the Dawn Cafe. We discussed what had worked and what hadn’t. We talked about preparation, hospitality, cleanliness, and what other roles were needed in a restaurant (like busing tables and washing dishes!).
I could have extended this learning activity by taking pictures of the event for the girls to put into a scrapbook. They could have also written an essay, reflection, or “how-to” article about it.
Their mock restaurant was a fun experience for all eight girls involved, as well as a great learning opportunity. They’ve already asked to do it again!
Bonnie Way is a stay-at-home mom with five children ages 11 to 1. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a history minor and loves reading historical fiction. Bonnie enjoys downhill skiing in the winter and biking with her kids in the summer. When she’s not homeschooling, she can be found blogging as the Koala Mom.