Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Activities with Play Food in the World Language Classroom

FOOD IS ONE OF THOSE TOPICS IN WORLD LANGUAGE CLASSES that gives a lot of bang for the buck.. we all like to talk about food, and there are so many ways to make it part of our lessons. Since I am a huge advocate of hands on learning, I use both plastic and paper play food whenever I am doing activities related to food- not only do they give little hands something to engage in, but it also provides visual support for my students. And this applies to all age groups, not just the littles- when I was teaching Russian to adults, I frequently incorporated manipulatives to support learning. Here are some ideas for using play food in your class:

*CATEGORIZE ACCORDING TO PREFERENCE: This is a simple way to practice expressions of preference, even if your students don't know the words for all the food items. For my younger students, I make up ziploc baggies or an envelope with approximately 10 foods in them along with a set of cards indicating 'I like', 'I really like', 'I don't like', and 'I don't know' (for those foods they've never tried) and divide the class into pairs. Each pair gets a baggie and takes turns categorizing the foods based on their preferences. After a few minutes, I have them leave the foods in a pile, and they move to the next set (each baggie has different foods in it) so they can categorize again. I encourage them to say how they feel about each food in Spanish as they place it under a preference card-this is the focus of the activity, using the preference phrases themselves. For older kids, you could have them add reasons why they like or don't like a particular food- It's too spicy, It's sweet, It's gross, etc. This makes for a great (and simple!) Interpersonal Activity, particularly for novice speakers!

*MY FAVORITE MEAL: Use paper plates to provide the starting prop, and have kids "fill" their plate with their favorite meal- could be breakfast, lunch or dinner! You could also title this: A MEAL I REALLY LIKE, since sometimes kids have a hard time deciding between multiple favorites. Kids can then turn and talk with the person on their left, then switch and turn and talk with the person on their right. I love activities where kids share with one another, it builds community by providing opportunities to learn about each other!

*PLAY RESTAURANT OR MARKET: Play food lends itself really well to activities involving restaurant or market vocabulary and provide a hands on component to the action. Students can "order" food which is then delivered to them (put the play food on a plate!), or the play food can be displayed as part of a market stand where students can "buy" what they need to make a dish or to get items on a shopping list. This is a fun way to integrate imaginary play for little kids, and manners expressions such as 'please', 'thank you' and 'you're welcome'.

Activities to Use Play Food in Foreign Language Classes

*"ILLUSTRATE A RECIPE":  Provide students with an authentic recipe and a basket or bin of printable food. Have them read the recipe and line up the ingredients below the recipe. This is a great center/ station activity! ALTERNATIVE: Have multiple sets of play food available, pair students up and have one student tell his/her partner which foods are needed for a particular recipe or dish. This is an easy way to add CULTURE to your classes!

Activities to Use Play Food in Foreign Language Classes

*PLAY 20 QUESTIONS: Have student go out into the hall and choose a food from a basket or bag. Upon re-entering the classroom, the rest of the class tries to guess the mystery food by asking a series of questions that can be answered with yes/no. Is it a fruit? Is it round? Is it an orange? etc. Once guessed, or the 20 questions are spent and the food revealed, choose another student and play again!

*PLAY 'I'M GOING ON A PICNIC AND I'M BRINGING...': I love this old favorite, but I find it is easier for students to engage in when we have the food visuals in front of them. It helps with recall, and provides some structure and limits to what they can choose from. I put out a bunch of play food that they know the names of and as one is named by a student, they put it in front of them so we can all reference it. This also helps keep the game moving, as the task focuses on remembering the Spanish vocabulary, rather than what someone said on down the circle.

*WHAT'S MISSING?: One of my favorite games with the littles is this one- place 4-5 foods in front of you, on the board or in a pocket chart. Have kids close their eyes, and take a food away. Have them open their eyes again and identify the missing food. After a few rounds, take away two foods, then three, etc. The funniest is when you take them all away! :)

*CATEGORIZE INTO...: There are so many ways students can categorize food- healthy vs unhealthy foods, groups based on the food pyramid, meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), foods they've tried vs foods they haven't, types of food (fruits, veggies, drinks, desserts, etc), and so on. Provide a graphic organizer for students to use as a template, placing food in categories they write at the top (or have the categories pre-written), ideal for novice speakers! When focusing on the category headers, this also means you can use foods that students still haven't learnt yet since the key language being used is the set of headers, rather than the individual words, meaning you can extend the activity beyond the food vocabulary set you've identified as core.

Activities to Use Play Food in Foreign Language Classes

*LUNCH TALK... an every more popular activity for class, lunch talk is a great way to incorporate authentic communication in a personalized format. The essence of lunch talk is taking the opportunity to talk with your students about what they have for lunch (or what they ate), which also allows for practice of high frequency phrases such as 'I have/I don't have', 'I like/don't like (and all the other variants), I eat (along with expressions of frequency), etc. The tricky part of lunch talk, most especially for novice speakers, is their limited vocabularies, yet quite unlimited set of possibilities in terms of what they might be having for lunch. One way to support your students is, instead of expecting verbal output of what they have, have them SHOW you using PLAY FOOD! This then allows you, as the teacher, to facilitate interaction and reaction (oh, I like that too!, Mmm, yummy! I eat ___ that every day, too, etc) in the target language. You can then scaffold and support students in using some of the phrases mentioned above, and you can encourage more general words, like 'sandwich' (instead of peanut butter & jelly sandwich) or 'soup' (instead of chicken noodle soup) to keep it accessible for the Novice proficiency level. Don't miss our Sandwich Printable Props Pack for this activity!

Activities with Printable Play Food Lunch Talk Spanish French English

NEED PLAY FOOD FOR YOUR CLASS? Look no further! We have an ever growing set of play food in Spanish, as well as the same set unlabeled, as well as sets in German, French, Russian, and English! Visit our shop and grab it now- click here!


  1. Another use for plastic food or empty cartons from authentic brands....,use them to demonstrate direct object pronouns!
    I also like your idea of using them to ask what favorite dishes are made of!
    Angela Burbano @SraBurbano. ☺️

    1. Hello Angela! Love that idea, thanks so much for sharing! ~Julie

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  3. Hola, me encanta tu blog y todo lo que en el compartes. Empiezo mi camino como profe de ELE para niños y es de gran ayuda. Una preguntita, ¿donde puedo conseguir estas imágenes de comida? ¿Se compran o las has fabricado tu misma? Muchas gracias.