Coffee Shop {Pretend Play} Activity

This coffee shop pretend play activity with sand, soap and water provides hours of open-ended, imaginative play for kids of all ages.  It’s become one of my favourite backyard water play activities here in my home daycare.

If you’ve been following us for any length of time, you know that I love setting up easy and inexpensive activities in our backyard play space. It’s a wonderful way to allow children to explore, experiment and learn. I especially love an activity that is captivating enough to hold their attention for a long period of time.  Our coffee shop met all the criteria and then some.

coffee shop activity with sand, soap and water (happyhooligans)

Last Friday was a P.A. day so a few of our “graduates” joined us for the day.  Because of the larger group and the wider age-range (1 to 7), I wanted to offer an engaging outdoor activity that would appeal to everyone.  I came up with the idea for this coffee shop activity just a few short hours before they arrived Friday morning, (cuz some of my best ideas come to me in the 11th hour) and I have to say, it was without a doubt, one of the best activities we’ve ever done here.

If you’re wondering where the inspiration came from, my hubby and I had picked up a couple of Timmie’s coffees the night before, and when I saw empty coffee cups in the recycling bin, a “light-bulb” went on.

kids working at the pretend play coffee shop

In the past, other super-popular activities that have held the hooligans attention for the better part of an entire morning have been our Muddy Car Wash,  Baby Bath Station, and our Ice Age Bin.  Please click on the links to see what they’re all about.  Each one is easy to prepare, and requires basic items that you likely already have around your home.scooping sand "sugar"

This one was no different.  I simply gathered some odds and ends from the toy room and craft room, and the only “ingredients” we used were sand, water and dish soap.

What I used to create our coffee shop:

  • metal or plastic tea pots, coffee pots or pitchers
  • milk foamer/frother (you could probably use a whisk or a hand-held egg-beater or even a blender)
  • clean milk/cream carton
  • plastic mugs, disposable coffee cups
  • stir sticks
  • spoons
  • spice shaker with large holes (ours still had popcorn flavouring in it)
  • small “sugar” bowls
  • sand
  • water
  • a few squirts of dish soap
  • plastic serving tray or cardboard take-out drink tray
  • our camping water jug so the children had access to and control of “running water” in the yard

This is what the coffee shop looked like before the hooligans descended on it.  The photo isn’t great, but the kids pounced on everything so quickly I wasn’t able to get a better one shot of the shop activity set up

Inexpensive work table:

The table that we use for a lot of our activities is a really light-weight coffee table that I picked up at a second-hand shop.  Because it’s so light, it’s easy to move around the yard or in and out of the house to where-ever we need it.  I paid about 6 bucks for it, and I don’t know how we ever did without it.pretend play coffee shop

Easy prep:

I simply filled the teapots and coffee pots with water, and I added some sand to the “sugar bowls”.  I added water and a few squirts of dish soap to the milk foamer, and I pumped the handle a few times to produce the beautiful foam that you’ll see in the following photos.

Coffee time!

It was an instant hit!  They all crowded around, and there was a frenzy of activity that continued for most of the morning.IMG_9753

The milk frother was a big hit.  When the kids pumped the plunger up and down, the soap and water produced loads of gorgeous foam that was perfect for scooping or pouring onto their “lattes”.

soap and water in the milk frothersoap "milk" for the pretend coffee shop

Our camping water-jug is always a popular, warm-weather addition to our outdoor play space.  The kids enjoy having access to “running water”, and they love to crank the spigot to refill their containers or to rinse their hands.

a camping water jug in the outdoor play space

They poured “cream”,IMG_9719

scooped sugar, IMG_9742

stirred and shook,IMG_9725


and served up some of the best looking play-coffee I’d ever seen.


And shortly before lunch, they realized that snowball bush was in full bloom,IMG_9833

so they spent the rest of the morning running back and forth, gathering blossoms to garnish their drinks with.IMG_9844

Mmmmm Mmmm!  Muddy, sandy play never looked so good!

So good, in fact that this activity has given me an idea for another one that I think will be just as fun!  Stay tuned because we’ll be doing that one next week!

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    • happyhooligans says

      No, there was no desire to sample, Faigle. The children were all very aware that it was sand and soap that they were playing with. Although it LOOKS yummy in the photo, when you scoop a fresh spoonful of sand into some dirty water, well, let’s just say there’s no big desire to take a sip. lol

  1. says

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to get an inexpensive play table for the backyard, and I think a thrift store coffee table would be just the thing! Thanks for the suggestion! I also LOVE the coffee shop. So fun!

    • happyhooligans says

      I think I’m going to look for another one, so I don’t have to keep taking mine back inside when we want to craft on rainy days. I’m thinking a nice big square one would be great for outside.

  2. says

    I have already started collecting our cups of coffee to be able to set this activity up with my kids…such a wonderful idea – thanks for the inspiration! I’ve also linked up to you in my blog as we did a gardening center as well…not as elaborate as yours with the fake flowers, but my kids still loved it! :)

  3. says

    This is my kind of pretend play! What a great idea. I can’t wait to try this in the spring.Thanks for sharing in the Discover & Explore pretend play theme. I’m featuring this post today.

  4. says

    its one of the best idea I’ve never done that.Soaping water looks whippen cream and sand water looks coffee. That’s I never realised it.You are so great idea maker.Crap crap crap

  5. Anne Worner says

    I love all the detail you have used for the coffee shop, i.e. creamer carton, soap bubbles. With the grandkids (ages 4-9), I also have used coffee grounds (normal trash or plant food) that have been spread out on a tray and dried, put into a canister with coffee scoop, and use coffee pots with stem, covered basket and glass knob on top. Since I use one pound of coffee at a time to make my cold brew coffee syrup, I have a pound of coffee for them at a time. This gives the smell of coffee too — SO FUN!!

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