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STEM Activity: Create a Custom Menu for a Summer Cookout

STEM Activities

Summertime is often full of fun outdoor activities, like soaking in the sunshine, playing with friends, swimming and having backyard barbecues!

Did you know that many food menus are designed with menu psychology in mind? Menu psychology is the study of how a menu’s layout, descriptions, pricing and item placement can influence a person’s choices when selecting food.

Check out the activity below to design your ultimate menu for a backyard bash. Once you’re done, have an adult help you plan, then invite your family and friends over for the big party!


Materials Needed:

  • Coloring supplies, like crayons, markers or colored pencils
  • Posterboard
  • Scrap paper


Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. On a piece of scrap paper, write down five foods you would like to have on your menu. Then, add unique or enticing names or descriptors that will make your menu items stand out.

    For example, instead of a “cheeseburger” you could use your name and add an appealing adjective, like “Amanda’s Delicious Homemade Cheeseburger.”
  2. Under each food, list the ingredients used to make it.

    For example, “Amanda’s Delicious Homemade Cheeseburger” might have a bun, hamburger patty, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles.
  3. Next, brainstorm a few ideas for a restaurant name and circle your favorite one.
  4. On the poster board, write your restaurant name and five foods, listing the ingredients under each one.
  5. Next to each food item, draw a picture of what it looks like. Don’t be afraid to add a lot of color!
  6. Choose two items you hope people will order the most. Grab a bright color and circle or draw a box around each of those items – this will draw people’s attention to them.
  7. Talk to an adult about planning a cookout with friends and family featuring your menu items, and place or hang your menu where your guests will see it.


What Are We Discovering?

The steps you take to create a menu involve a field of science called psychology. Psychology is the study of the mind and how it affects behavior.

When looking at a food menu, people can get overwhelmed with too many options. Successful menus include a reasonable number of quality items, with all ingredients listed. They also attract the customer’s attention by using colors and pictures. If there is an item the restaurant owner is hoping to sell the most, they will often include a box, bracket or more images around it to help it stand out. Next time you visit a restaurant, look at the menu to see if you can spot these features!

When planning your backyard bash, consider adding a few refreshing drinks to your menu. You could add beverages like iced tea and lemonade, which you might choose to serve in a mason jar. Invented by National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee John Mason, these glass jars were originally intended for canning or preserving food. However, today they have become a popular – and fun! – choice for a cool beverage container.


Keep the Fun and Learning Going!

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