For adults, restaurants are fun. The ambiance. The food. The conversation. Not having to cook. The drinks. It’s relaxing and enjoyable. For kids though, restaurants are boring. They can’t make noise. They can’t run around and they have to wait... Wait to sit, wait for their drinks, wait for their food, wait to leave. This “waiting” is not on kids’ list of favorite activities. All of this waiting leaves us with bored, antsy children and adults who are desperate for an enjoyable family outing but are instead frustrated with the situation. In short, no one has a good time. It becomes exhausting rather than relaxing. But with a little planning and some activity ideas in your secret arsenal, you can turn a stressful restaurant experience back into a fun one!
Most parents are quick to pull out their cell phones or tablets to quickly keep a child busy, but this doesn't really teach our kids how to sit and behave properly at a restaurant. Teaching our kids these manners and social norms is an important part of our parenting job and kids deserve to lean how to behave properly! This doesn't negate the fact though that our kids have a teeny attention span and we cannot expect them to sit still for an entire meal either. The best thing to do is to come armed with some fun, quiet games and activities to keep them busy and happy so they, and Mom and Dad, can enjoy their special meal out together.
So next time you are heading out to eat, be prepared to keep your kiddies entertained so you can enjoy your night out! Here are a bunch of ideas, separated by younger kids and older kids. Many of these ideas can overlap age groups too!
Younger Kid Ideas
- Mini tubs of play doh
- paper and crayons
- Tegu Blocks
- sort the salt and pepper packets by color/shape/designs/size
- Crayola Wonder Markers
- Pipe cleaners or wiki sticks (bend into shapes, animals, letters)
- eye spy
- Create a busy book with felt shapes (here's a really great tutorial, but the possibilities are endless with these!)
- Unifix cubes (they all connect so you won't have lost blocks)
- Popsicle sticks with velcro circles on the ends to connect to make shapes or designs
- Ed Emeberly Finger Print Drawing Books (fun for all ages!)
- ABC eye spy- circle the letters on the kids paper menus, see who can get the furtherest in the alphabet!
- Read a board book story
- Aqua Doodle
Older Kid Ideas
- Mad Libs
- Create a story about the people you see
- Create a story about Mr. Knife, Mrs. Fork and Baby Spoon (or whatever characters you wish to assign them!)
- tic tac toe with the sugar packets
- Play "would you rather?" and ask all sorts of interesting questions of what they'd rather do
- Mini bags of legos (a small sandwich bag would be plenty!)
- Make a "cootie catcher"- remember those?? Fill it with silly things, tasks or wishes (here's a great tutorial in case you forget how to make them!)
- Where is it? Play the magic trick game of "where's the penny" by placing it under one of three sugar packets and move around, allowing you child to try and guess where it is!
- Tell Knock Knock jokes
- Make some simple origami
- Play "Which is missing?" Set out some items from the table (think: utensils, sugar packs, ketchup, napkin) and have your child look at the close, then tell them to close their eyes and then take one way! Have your child try and figure out which is missing.
Armed with this handy list, you'll be ready to entertain your brood, no matter what their ages, from when your arrive at the restaurant until your meal is complete. As your kids grow, encourage them to think of more quiet and restaurant- appropriate ideas to add to the list.
What's your favorite trick for entertaining your kids at a restaurant that's electronic-free?
Looking for some great board book ideas for your little ones? Check out some of these:
Photo credits: Photo Credits: Our Three Peas