Literacy on the Menu

Have you ever taken your children to a restaurant that supplies young customers with an activity sheet and crayons? These pages of games usually take the form of placemats or kids menus, and they often include pictures to color, mazes, word searches, and other simple games. These activity pages are a great way to develop early literacy skills while you’re waiting for your meal.

Kids Activity PlacematAny child who is old enough to hold a crayon or pencil can benefit from an activity sheet–or even the blank side of a paper placemat. Coloring and scribbling help young children develop hand muscles that will be necessary for finer writing later on. Make sure to always ask your child what he or she has drawn; talking about images helps children learn that words and pictures represent real life things and ideas.

Children who are old enough to write can practice writing their letters on activity sheets–use words printed on the paper as samples that they can copy. Mazes are great for developing writing skills, too; even if children don’t understand how to solve a maze, they can practice drawing a straight line without running into the maze’s edges. You can even turn the jumbled letters in a word search into a game of letter recognition; ask your child if he/she can find an A, a G, and so on.

The images that are printed on placemats and menus also provide terrific opportunities to developing early literacy skills. Ask your child what he or she sees on the page, then talk about those objects. Does the placemat or menu show cartoon characters? Ask your child what the characters are doing and what they are going to eat for dinner. Talking about the things your child can see and creating stories around those objects helps children develop vocabulary as well as a sense of chronology.

There are plenty of ways you can help your child learn while you’re waiting in a restaurant. Open those crayons and start exploring the activity placemat!

*image from


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