Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

By Laila Weir

Brunch. Breakfast in bed. Whatever your preference, a special morning meal with Mom is what Mother’s Day is all about for many families. 

If you’re preparing a yummy surprise for a mother of young children, you can get the kids involved and turn it into a super adorable moment that’s also a learning experience by letting them run a pop-up restaurant for the occasion. 

Young kids love pretend play, and they love doing real-life, grown-up things. Creating a Mother’s Day restaurant is the best of both, and it even sneaks in some crucial early learning that will set your kids up for success down the road. In this sweet Mother’s Day activity, you’ll engage kids in creative play, create a treasured memory, help them practice writing, and craft a cute keepsake, too. Plus, avoid delivering a flour-covered kiddo along with breakfast!

Kick things off by planning the menu, whether you’re whipping up homemade goodies or putting together a few store-bought items with Mom’s favorite morning beverage. 

Part of the beauty of this activity is that it gives young children a central role in even the simplest servings, so it’s awesome if you’re celebrating a mother who prefers a light meal, you’re not much of a cook, or you just don’t want to give the special lady a messy kitchen. (It’s also great as the finishing touch on a gourmet home-cooked meal, of course, so by all means don’t let us stop you if that’s your thing!)

two Mother's Day brunch menus written in a child's handwriting

Once you know what you’re serving, you’ll help your little one(s) write up a pretty menu. For best results, you’ll want to use something firmer than just a piece of paper. A rectangle of cardstock or cardboard is perfect, or even a blank greeting card will work well. If necessary, you can use a glue stick to paste plain paper over cardboard with writing on it to create a plain surface. Tip: The back of an old notebook can work perfectly! Just trim it as needed with a pair of sharp scissors (grown-ups only).

Then grab some markers and help your child write up the menu! Start by putting a title at the top with the name of your restaurant, for example “Mommy’s Place or “Sanchez Family Mother’s Day Restaurant,” and then list all the items on offer. Have fun brainstorming your restaurant’s name together.

For the littlest kids, helping them write may mean gently holding their hand and guiding them in forming the letters, as well as doing some of the writing for them (for example, the title). For kids who already know how to write some or all of the alphabet, tell them the letters one by one, or write a model on a separate piece of paper for them to copy. And for emerging writers, let them sound out the words all on their own! 

Remember: Bring your patience! You’re creating something awesome for Mom and helping your kid learn crucial skills that will serve them well all their lives: It’s worth the wait.

When the writing is done, invite your child to decorate around the edges with curlicues, doodles, or other illustrations. Then be sure to have them sign their name and add the date to make the menu a sweet keepsake.

Cup of coffee, menu, and rose sitting on breakfast tray

Now your restaurant is ready to open! Let your child dress up in an apron and even a chef hat if they have one (you can also cut an old tote bag to create a makeshift kid’s apron, if you’re feeling crafty!), or slip on some formal wear to serve as the restaurant’s host or hostess. When they’re ready, they can go to Mom, surprise her with the menu, and take her order. Be sure to have your camera ready.

Bonus: Need more surprises to make the day special? You can also craft an adorable Mother’s Day love jar gift or pick up some wonderful picture books about moms.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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