Mission Friends Restaurant

The little 3-year-old waitress at our exclusive Mission Friends restaurant asked me, “Would you like the mac and cheese, tacos, or veggables?” I chose the mac and cheese, and she scribbled my order on a toy magnetic writing board that was in the classroom. She instantly served my imaginary mac and cheese on an imaginary plate, and told me it would be $3.00. I paid my imaginary money and pretended to eat my food. There were squeals of laughter as the 4-year-old cook joined in to bring me more food that I had not even ordered!

My Mission Friends played this restaurant scenario in Homeliving for 4 weeks in a row. The activity was suggested in Mission Friends Leader for 3s and 4s in Session 1 of the April unit. The suggestion was to arrange food pictures on a wall, and then invite customers to order food from the wall menu while cooks prepare food items. I placed 6 pictures of different foods on the wall in our Homeliving area, then during our activity time I began the play by pointing out the pictures and telling them which one I wanted to order. There were 2 preschoolers in the Homeliving area at the time, and they picked up very quickly that this was a restaurant. They took my order and proceeded to cook. They soon were taking each other’s orders, and some other preschoolers came over to place their food orders, too. We talked about how Mr. and Mrs. Maroney teach people how to grow food. The second week was when the magnetic writing board appeared in our room. The pictures of food were not on the wall that week, but I realized the preschoolers were playing restaurant again on their own. The magnetic writing board had become the order pad.

Each week since, they have played this scenario without any prompting from teachers. They just started playing this among themselves, and sometimes included a teacher. Each week this opened opportunities to talk about the Maroney family as the preschoolers played. When I first put the pictures on the wall, I never envisioned how much this simple activity would resonate with my preschoolers. This experience reminded me of several things about preschoolers:

  • They enjoy doing activities over and over. One of the ways preschoolers learn is through repetition such as this.

  • A few props will go a long way in suggesting ways to play. Several pictures of food cut from magazines were all I added to the Homeliving area, and this produced an entire scenario of play.

  • Preschoolers’ imaginations will take the play in their own direction. My preschoolers found the magnetic writing board in another area of the classroom and brought it to the Homeliving area to use as the order pad.

  • Preschoolers play out what they know. At one point my preschoolers started charging their customers. Even though these were random amounts ($14 for a glass of water), they knew that people have to pay for food and drinks at restaurants.

  • Play is a way of building relationships. What fun we had when I joined in their play. I saw a preschooler’s eyes light up when I asked a question. They played with one another, taking on the roles of servers, cooks, and customers.

  • Their play is an avenue of learning about missions. As they played, we were able to talk about the missionary family. Over the weeks that this scenario was played in Homeliving, we had opportunities to talk about the Maroney family, that they teach people how to grow food, and how the Missionary Kids (MKs) had to learn new words for foods in a different language.

Play is a very powerful tool in teaching preschoolers. Use the activity suggestions in Mission Friends Leader to prompt play related to the missionaries and their work. Know that even when you prepare other activities, preschoolers will repeat a previous activity that they really enjoyed. As preschoolers are learning about missions through play, they are also having great fun.

Oh, and about that $14 glass of water—refills were free!

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