Image by: Gisela Giardino

Waiter Play

Age Range
3-7 yrs
Setup Time
5-10 minutes!
Setup Location

What is pretend play? In pretending, children imaginatively transform objects, play the roles of other people, give voices to miniature figures, and develop scenarios for their dramas. When children pretend, they are deeply engaged in many kinds of learning. Actively involved with other children, sometimes with adults, they explore materials and discover possibilities, confront problems and find solutions, create narratives that reflect and extend their experience of themselves and the world. In this way, they learn without being directly taught.

If children are playing together, they will be collaborating and negotiating. Dramatic play is a particularly rich area for exploring and consolidating learnings about the social world. Taking roles that range from baby to astronaut, engaging in exchanges of buying and selling, organizing a wedding party, being conductor or passenger on a train, children enact their understandings of social roles, the reciprocity of roles, and the modes of conduct in their social milieu. Playing house, they not only assign or take on
roles, but arrange materials and become involved in activities such as measuring ingredients to make an imaginary cake. Children arranging chairs to form a pretend train will count the seats, make and distribute tickets, and discuss and decide upon destinations. Making signs or tickets, they may use pretend writing, which is a step on the way to literacy.

This is a great activity to engage a number of kids together and help them explore, create and imagine!


  1.  Create a restaurant setting at home with a table and chairs and items like plastic cups, plates, and silverware, aprons, menus, a sign, tablecloth, place mats, napkins, a play telephone, and any other equipment you find

  2. Ask your child to be the waiter or the customer and act out a restaurant scene

  3. Improvise by building in scenarios (spilled water, delayed service, wrong order etc.)

Disclaimer: This presents an overview of child development. It is important to keep in mind that the time frames presented are averages and some children may achieve various developmental milestones earlier or later than the average but still be within the normal range of development. This information is presented to help parents understand, at a high level, what to expect from their child. Any questions/concerns you may have about your child’s development should be shared with your doctor.