Pretend Play Can Make Real-Life Restaurant Visits Better for Everyone

Kids can learn about serving others, ordering courteously and making pleasant mealtime conversation — all through restaurant role play.

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Dana Villamagna, Toca Magazine Writer
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We’ve all seen kids (maybe our own) with less-than-perfect dining etiquette in restaurants. Sure, you could plunk down a few hundred dollars for classes taught by an etiquette counselor, or remind and correct your kid about manners at every meal. But since most kids love to practice big-kid situations through play, why not try playing restaurant to help them develop those skills in a light-hearted, kid-directed way?

Imaginary restaurant play can help kids learn social dining expectations, especially if parents sprinkle in some good manners modeling but don’t dictate the play scenario. Kids are much more likely to remember the mini-lessons if they choose which role (dining guest or waiter/chef) they want to play and take the lead. The kid-directed storyline may be funny or dramatic, and it might give you some interesting insights into how your kid views their own experiences at restaurants.

Imaginary restaurant play can help kids learn social dining expectations.

Playing restaurant can be entirely imaginary with little or no real food, or it can happen during actual at-home mealtimes. Finer etiquette points — serving others, ordering courteously and making pleasant mealtime conversation — happen quite naturally during restaurant role play. This time can also include teachable moments on basic table manners, such as placing napkins on laps and holding utensils properly.

After playing restaurant a few times, your kid’s manners will likely improve, although they may not be ready to dine at three-star Michelin establishments just yet. Even so, you and your kid may have already created the best dining experiences in the world right in your own kitchen — real food optional.

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