As a food lover and writer for NYSF, I’ve been dining in restaurants since the first moment I remember myself eating. My parents used to take me along to every food adventure they went on, and I do the same today with my own children. Eating out with kids in restaurants can be a joy, but it’s also a challenge at times. If you’re looking to go out and enjoy a delicious meal in quietness – it probably won’t happen with your kids around.
Give them a tablet? I know, in today’s age of gadgets – the most tempting way to solve this challenge is by handing them out your phone or iPad. This trick always keeps my kids entertained, and can usually last for an entire lunch or dinner out in a restaurant. I only allow them to play educational games or videos (see some tips at later below), and I use a parental control app called FamiSafe, which protects kids as they surf online. You can read these FamiSafe reviews to learn more.
However, gadgets are usually my last resort. As I said, eating out with kids in restaurants can – and should be – a joy. There are plenty of fun and entertaining games you can play with your children while enjoying a wonderful meal at your favorite restaurant. Read these tips to find out…
5 Tips For Eating Out With Kids in Restaurants:
1. Play-Doh with your kids while waiting for your dish
This is probably one of my favorite kid’s games at restaurants because I’m pretty good at it. I already sculptured beautiful animals from clay and Play-Doh back when I was a teenaged uncle. Now, I keep a small container of Play-Doh in our bag whenever we go out with our kids to a restaurant. First thing is to give them molding missions, like “let’s make 10 balls with different sizes” (if your kids are small), and “let’s make a dog” (if they’re a bit older). If you have more than one kid – you better prepare a separate set of Play-Doh with all the colors for each one, so they don’t end up fighting over it.
2. Crayons and Paper vs. iPad
This is probably the most effective and popular of all tips for eating out with kids in restaurants. Crayons can sometimes be as effective as iPads. There are restaurants that know this and have ‘em in stock, ready for your kids to play with. Some even offer paper kids’ menus on which they can draw freely. But you don’t really need that. All my kids need is a blank piece of paper and a set of colorful crayons.
Also here, to make it more exciting – we usually give them “Drawing Missions”. A great add-on tool every kid loves are Colorforms – which are simple shapes and forms cut from colored vinyl that adhere to any surface without glue. These can easily be used to create beautiful drawings and can be changed endless times by just repositioning the removable color forms. You can find these on Amazon and many other online stores.
3. The Holy Bag of Toys
My little girl never leaves the house without a few of her favorite animal toys, which include a Hippo, a Giraffe, a Monkey, and a Zebra. It’s her own private zoo. We adopted this habit of hers and created our “Holy Bag of Toys”, where we throw in some of our kids’ favorite toys each time we go out to a restaurant. This always saves us when they’re tired of drawing or sculpting, or just grumpy. As soon as they see one of their favorite toys – a big smile appears, and this can entertain them for another 30 minutes or so. You can also give them missions with their toys, like when the food arrives – “feed your animals!”.
4. Games with No Toys at All
If you’re stuck eating out in a restaurant with kids without any toys at all – don’t worry! You can survive the ordeal. It happened to us quite a few times, and despite the fact you’ll need to put in more energy and have less time to enjoy a quiet meal – these following games do work.
Math it out: If your kids are at the right age – you can start playing math games with the restaurant’s menu. Ask them to find the 5 most expensive items on the menu, and then the cheapest. Give them an imaginary budget of $30 to create a fulfilling meal for everyone. There are plenty of other math games to play with a menu.
Make the Salt disappear: My kids love this simple ‘What just disappeared?” game. How to play it? Very easy. Place a few objects on the table, whatever you can ask from the waiter. We usually ask for the usual salt and pepper shakers, ketchup, olive oil, and a few more. Ask your kids to focus on all the objects, and then their eyes. Make sure they’re not peaking, while you take one object away. Now they need to think hard and use their memory to remember what object just disappeared.
5. Go on a Stroll
If things go out of control, and your kids make it impossible to enjoy your meal – just get up and take them for a stroll. I’m taking into account that your partner is there to hold your table. This is the last resort for some, but I and my wife actually use it quite often. In some cool locations, it’s just nicer to wait for the food while walking around and showing your kids a few other attractions. These could just be a few paintings on the wall or colorful plants in the hallway, that can entertain kids for a few precious minutes.
Back to my earlier promise of a few kids-friendly gadget tips, here are three of my favorite educational games and videos:
- The YouTube Kids app is great because it’s a safer and more contained environment with a good selection of educational videos.
- PBS Parents Play & Learn is perfect to play while eating out with kids in restaurants. It offers more than a dozen games themed around different locations, like a grocery store, kitchen, playground, and yes – also a restaurant.
- If you want to make your kid fall asleep and let you eat in quietness, check out these beautiful Tales of Friendship with Winnie the Pooh.
If you end up staying home instead of going out to the restaurant – check out these easy ways to spend quality time in the kitchen with your kids!