Remember those days when you and your partner would go out to eat and it was so relaxing? You could talk to each other about your day, discuss the weekend plans and you had plenty of time to think about whether you wanted a salad or chicken sandwich. Now, I am sure your meals out at restaurants look similar to mine – picking kids up, putting them down, having a little one on my lap, going for a walk outside while we wait for the food, clean up an inevitable spilled drink, hand out snacks while my partner and I are trying to piece together a complete thought.
Those peaceful dinners will be back in a few years, but for now we are deep into our Mom era and entertaining little ones around the clock is just what we do. So, how do we even keep our little ones remotely behaved when out to eat? One option – don’t go out to eat. I’m kidding! Just because you have kids, doesn’t mean you stay inside all of the time. You can choose to go the screens/iPad route and there is nothing wrong with that. This option will certainly keep your children quiet and behaved while waiting for their food to arrive. You do whatever works best for your family.
If you are choosing to go the screen free route, this is a list of 10 activities to keep your little ones entertained while out to eat.
1. Stickers/ Paint by Sticker
Not only are stickers a great fine motor activity but they are also a lot of fun for kids of all ages. You can throw some simple stickers in a diaper bag for your littlest hands or look for something more involved like a paint by sticker book, in which your little one has to follow directions to reveal a hidden picture.
2. Magnetic Games
There is a whole line of fun magnetic travel games out there, so you are sure to find something that fits your child’s abilities and interests. Magnetic games are great for a restaurant table because you don’t have to worry about losing pieces and they can easily be cleaned up when it is time to eat!
These wax sticks are an affordable way to get your child’s imagination going! You can create anything with them, so they are another perfect activity for kids of any age. Little hands might just have fun with the texture and folding them, while older children might want to create characters, vehicles, or make up something entirely on their own.
4. Magnetic Building Cube
Not only can this cube be taken apart and put together again, it also comes with idea cards to help inspire your little one to build something else. There is also a similar product – a cube puzzle, that would get the job done for your littlest ones. I like activities that require some thinking and allows for as much independence as your child would like.
Similar to the magnetic cube, Kanoodle is a game that requires your child’s brain to do some work. The object of the game is to place all of the colored pieces back into the folding case, but the trick is, there are countless ways to do this. Your child can play over and over again, as each time it is something different. There is also a Kanoodle Jr. on the market, which is great for your younger children.
6. Waiting Games Pack
This particular product is made specifically for these times – times when your little one needs to wait. This pack includes 24 games, so you are bound to find something that peaks your child’s interest by the time the food hits the table!
7. Card Games
If you are looking for a way to get the entire family involved, a card game might be the right choice for you. Card games are versatile and there are so many options to choose from. You can have your children play a game like Go Fish or Old Maid (one with its own set of rules) or give them a deck of traditional cards and let them make their own fun. This activity may require some help when it comes time to clean up, but is sure to keep your little ones entertained while waiting.
8. Reusable Drawing Activities
Coloring and drawing is fun, but it is even better when you can create something and then wipe the board clean and do it all over again. This doodlebook is essentially filled with blank pages, so your child has the opportunity for endless fun! These whiteboard, busy boards have specific activities on them, so your child can follow directions while still having fun.
9. Coloring Books
Bringing it back “old school” by including just some basic crayons/colored pencils/markers and coloring books on the list! While some restaurants may include this activity with a kids menu, not all do so it is better to be prepared. You can find coloring books for just about any character or interest too, so you can personalize coloring book options for each of your children.
Now if you like these ideas, but are in a rush to find something before tonight’s dinner or simply don’t want to break the bank just yet – print your own activities! With a quick search of Google or Etsy you can find coloring and activity pages galore. You can even print out some learning activities to get a jump start on the school year ahead. Simply download, print (and make sure you have some crayons on hand!) and your screen free restaurant activity is complete.
Keep these activities in a separate bag that your children only see when you are out to eat. The less they see the activities, the more excited and engaged they will be. Again, you can absolutely choose to have a quiet, pro-screen dinner. You do what you need to do, but if you opt for a screen free outing, I hope you found something helpful on this list!