Pizza Paradise: Teaching Money Skills

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Restaurant etiquette is an important part of teaching our kids how to be considerate adults.  One of my favorite ways to teach table manners AND learn how to count and figure money is to conduct my own restaurant at home!  

I include a menu, real food, real money and employ the kids to set the table, make the food, and help with clean-up!  ;o) So the kids are learning how to order for themselves, create delicious meals, set a table properly, and pay for their own food with real money!  You can read about more reasons to practice restaurant etiquette by clicking here to read my article, Taking Children to Restaurants: 7 Things to Consider.  Yes, I use real money.  I heard an educator once say, "Why spend money on fake money, when the real thing will do?"  There is nothing more authentic than the real thing.  

I call this a classroom restaurant.  And if you want to score big points for your kids--set one up today!  My kids love it and beg to have restaurant night often.  The math involved in ordering and paying for food is very authentic: A classroom restaurant teaches the importance of using real money to practice paying a bill, the skill of estimation to order off the menu within your financial means, and a quick way to figure out your tip!

Since everyone is involved, it doesn't take long to get your very own restaurant set up in your own home!  I've even crafted a more simple menu than the one I used--one that would work for your family's own Pizza Paradise Restaurant.  Feel free to use it to make learning Math fun in your home!  Click here for the PDF.  

So let's get started!  

First, a couple of days before we have a restaurant night, I sit down at the computer and draw up a quick menu.  I choose a name for the restaurant, I choose what will be offered as appetizers, main and side dishes, beverages, and desserts.  For this particular night, I chose to call our restaurant, Pizza Paradise, because my daughter had recently been begging to make pizza for dinner.  So, her wish to make pizza is fulfilled AND we get to study fractions!  I love pizza fractions!  

When choosing food for the menu, write down items that you are able to prepare fairly easily.  You do not want to offer Beef Stroganoff, Barbecued Salmon, and Cornish Game Hens all on the same night.  If you do this, it will be the last time you ever have restaurant night because you will be so wiped out.  The key is to offer lots of choices but manageable for you. I offered 2 different main dishes because the parmesan pasta was leftover from the night before.  It wasn't a big deal, then, to offer 2 main dishes since one was already cooked.

Here is a peak at the menu:

Pizza Paradise Menu

Appetizer:
Edamame……………………………………..…$ .15
Cucumbers and vinegar………………………..$ .15
Carrots and ranch…………………………….…$ .15
 
Main Dish:
Slice Pepperoni Pizza………………………......$ .50/per slice
Whole Personal Pizza …………..………….......$ 1.00
Parmesan Pasta………...…………………....….$ .25
 
Side Dishes:
Tangelo slices..........………………………….....$ .10
Apple slices…………………………………..…..$.10
Salad………………………………………...........$ .25
 
Beverages:
Water………………………………………….…free
Juice…………………………………………....…$ .10
Milk…………………………………………….….$ .10
Green Smoothie……………….…………….…...$ .25
 
Dessert:
Ice Cream…………………………………………$ .25
Orange Cream Popsicle…………………………$ .25
Popsicles…………………………………...……..$ .15

The day of, I make sure I had all my ingredients prepped and ready. We cut carrot sticks, cucumbers, and have the drinks chilling in the fridge. I employ my nine-year-old to make the table look restaurant-ready.  She rolls napkins around silverware, sets the table with our plates and cups.  We love to use wine glasses for fancy water cups! My other daughter makes a cute sign to welcome the customers. 

Then, the moment my middle daughter was waiting for:  pizza-making!  I guide her through the steps needed to make the crust and prepare the pizza.  

Meanwhile, I gather all the spare change I can find.  I add up the price of the most expensive item in each category, add a little extra for the tip, and then put that amount in each cup.  I do not want to put too much value in their cups.  It would eliminate the need to estimate the cost of their food choices to insure they have enough money to pay for their bill.  If you look at the menu above, notice the cost of the entire pizza is a better value than the cost of one slice.  This is true most often in real life.  I want my kids to know this and discover on their own that it would be in their best interest to order the whole 4-slice pizza than paying for the equivalent of 4 individual slices.  

Notice also that water is free.  This is true for American restaurants as well.  It is good to teach kids to be frugal.  We tell our kids that whatever they do not spend on dinner, they are able to keep for themselves (with the understanding that they cannot forgo dinner in order to collect the whole cup of change!  ;o)  

To mimic the fun of a real restaurant, we place a color page at each place setting.  They come in a tear-off booklet called, "Doodles at Dinner".  The kids love these!  While the kids sit at the table waiting for the serving staff  (AKA: Mom and Dad) to take their order, we ask them to count their money so they will know how much they can spend on dinner.  

We give them their menus and a pencil, and the kids circle their food choices.  We collect them and proceed to bring out their appetizers.  The kids work on their color pages while they wait.

Here, Georgia Reese enjoys her appetizer of carrots and dip.

And another daughter enjoys her whole personal pizza with the side dish of apples and strawberries.

We took this opportunity to talk fractions!  Here, Holland had eaten 1/4 of her personal pizza.

She shows three fingers to tell me that she has 3/4 left of her pizza.  We also count her apple slices and she gives me a fraction of what she had left as well.  

Dessert is a favorite pastime at our house.  Worth every penny!  :o)

When it comes time to give each girl their bill, we also bring a pencil.  This is a great time for them to add the totals together themselves.  We check their math, and they add up the coins.  

Here daddy gets in on the fun and helps Georgia Reese count her change.  She thinks this is fun!

I explain to Liv that when giving a tip, it is customary to give a 10% tip.  If the service is great, a 15% tip.  If the server was excellent and went above and beyond, they could give a 20% tip, if they felt so inclined.  I show her how to figure this out as you can see on the paper above. I don't want to brag, but I received a 20% tip.  :o)  

This was one successful restaurant night!  The kids all enthusiastically say, "Let's do this again!"

Here are some other tips to make this more challenging:

1.  If you have older kids, make the menu items worth more.  

2.  Place dollar bills in their cups as well.  Have one your children be the cashier and practice giving change.  

3.  If a child spends more than they have, create a dishwashing job that covers the extra!  

4.  If you want to teach economics, give each child a different amount of money.  This will show them that not everyone has the same amount to spend in real life.  Of course, you'd want to make sure your child still gets the same amount of food the others get. :o)

5.  Older kids can help create the menu!  

6.  If you have a trip overseas in your future, consider using a foreign currency such as pesos or colones or RMB's to get a head start on learning how to spend it when you get there!  

If you do set up a classroom restaurant in your home, I'd love it if you'd share a peak into your fine dining establishment.  Share ideas and encourage other readers!