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Friday, March 4, 2011

10 things to do while sitting in a restaurant (with children)



These are all tested and guaranteed to keep your children somewhat happy while waiting for dinner (or anywhere else you are stuck). Yes, you can wait places with small children! No, you do not have to hand over your iphone!

1. Play ISpy.  This is especially good at restaurants like Chili's and Cracker Barrel or any other eatery that  covers the walls with architectural and domestic artifacts. In fact, this can lead to some really interesting conversations with older kids too.


2. Make up stories about the people you see. This might sound mean, but you can gently wonder about people, like why they are eating out, what their relationships are, etc. If you have very loud, talkative children, you might want to skip this one. I just read A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink and he even recommends this as a way to improve storytelling.

3. Use flashcards. No, I am not talking about Tiger Momming your kids! We have found really fun flashcards with animals, space, art, body parts and cars. They are fun to look at and great conversation starters. When we were preparing to go to Costa Rica, we would practice our Spanish words while waiting. When I was a younger and very ambitious mom, I even made my own arty cards out of index cards and magazine pictures, with things like food, and weird combination (a fish on a bike). For visually oriented kids, these can be consuming and enjoyable.


4. Bring pipe cleaners. For the kids who has to move his or her hands these are a life saver. You can mold them into little people, cars, monsters, etc. You can also make crowns, chains, and jewelry. I buy these at the dollar store and just keep a bunch in the glove box.

5. Taste test the condiments at the table. Well, this might be if you are really desperate. But, we have done this and it was fun, so I had to include it.



6. Bring or make a matchbox theatre. Inspired by the matchbox theatres we bought from Leaf Cutter Designs, we went on to make our own. Just an empty matchbox and some stickers on toothpicks and you are good to go. An alternative is to use the bigger matchbox and tiny toys. The key is the little window that directs attention to the "stage area." This is not high art, just silly stories that pass the time. Both kids and adults should tell the tales!


7. Read a book. This seems obvious but sometimes you just forget how simple it is to just read while you are waiting. I have a collection of small paperback story books that I keep in the passenger seat pocket of the car for times when we are stuck somewhere. Maybe print out some tiny books like this, this, or this.


8. Make some origami. Again, sounds so simple. I firmly believe that every person should have at least one origami design memorized. Why do I think this? Because I was once in an airport with a cranky 2.5 yo and 6 month old. We had been there a long time. An elderly man came up to us and speaking very little folded the most elegant little bird out of a piece of magazine paper. My daughter was mesmerized and her eye nearly popped out her head when he showed her how to pull at one bit to make the wings flap. Then he retreated, like a tiptoeing angel. So, your origami skills might be useful for your children, or any other children you come across in your adventures. Oh, and if you ever meet me in the airport, I will make you a box like this.


9. Tell knock knock jokes. Time to break out the horrible knock knocks from your childhood to unleash on your kids. I think most kids go through a knock knock phase; I especially love when kids make up their own jokes, that make no sense at all.

Knock Knock!
Whose There?
Shoe.
Shoe who?
Shoe toe! hahahaha!


10. Play the question game. This is a game we made up and play at night, in the car or when bored waiting somewhere. It is really simple. The asker (me) quick fires simple questions to the kids.

Would you rather live underwater or in outer space?
What is your is favorite vegetable?
Would you rather be a gnome or fairy?
Peppermint or Berry toothpaste?
Top 3 ice cream toppings?
Which moon phase is the best?
How many kids do you want when you grow up?
If you could have any animal as a pet, what would it be?
Bike or Skateboard?

and so on. My kids love this game! I guess because they like to be heard and really like to share their opinions.

So, there you go. We have spend ALOT of time waiting around with kids over the last 10 years and this is my tried and true safety net of ideas. I would love to hear what other parents do to pass the time.

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51 comments:

  1. brilliant I might print his off to keep in my bag

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  2. Great ideas! I think I want to print them, too.

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  3. Awesome ideas. We also play the fortunately/unfortunately game. And the doodle game - one of us makes a doodle. The other has to turn it into something.

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  4. We bring playdough to occupy their little hands at the table. We've tried legos but those always end up under the table.

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  5. We play the Happy Memory Game. We all take turns telling a happy memory. It sparks amazing conversations, and even toddlers perk up when they remember their birthday or Disneyworld!

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  6. Shake half-and-half cups to make butter. It sort of works ... and the shaking is good fun.

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  7. We play 20 questions. And I always carry paper and crayons as smallest loves to draw.

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  8. We played "top 5"...top 5 books, pizza toppings, colors...anything you can think of. Everyone took a turn, and everyone listened to see who had the same ideas.

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  9. Like all your suggestions, and have tried many of them when my kids were young. We also played coaster Go Fish with the cardboard drink coasters. If they are all the same, it takes imagination, and usually produces lots of giggles!

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  10. 2 games.

    1 Read my mind... pick a category and a single word that falls in that category. Ex: Christmas things. Secret word Angel. the older the child the more obscure the secret word needs to be. They list anything they can think of that falls in the category until they come up with the secret word.

    2 Category alphabet...Pick a category and think of items in that group with each of the letters in the alphabet. Category-Christmas...Angel, Bow, Carol, etc

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  11. Tic-tac-toe, Hangman, guess the number

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  12. 2 More ideas that my Mom did that I loved and still remember

    1. Using the coins in your purse show kids how to count, different combinations, and things like "which coins make 23 cents", etc. Helps with math skills!

    2. Play the game "I'm on my way to grandma's house and I'm taking with me a" then starting with the letter "A" take turns adding things to take to grandma's house where each person must list everything packed so far up until and including their letter. It really helps with memory skills and requires nothing extra in your purse!

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    1. I love those ideas!!!

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  13. Similar to carrying pipe-cleaners, I carry a fidget toy (google it) they're cool and cost like $2. Mad Libs get giggles. A deck of cards can entertain me & kids for a long time too. Stickers for the small kids. I used to use the puffy kind for toddlers.

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  14. Great ideas! One bonus that we have found is a mat for the kids that goes on the table and stays in place with suction cups. On the mat are traceables that they can trace and color with. Then the matt is awesome to provide them with a clean surface to eat on no matter where you are- my kid is almost 2 and is getting more used to plates, but the matt is easier.

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  15. Ugh, I always think it's rude when kids are doing something anti-social in a restaurant, i.e. iphone, ipad, ipod, and yes, even reading. Isn't the whole point to talk with the people who you are at the table with? I'd take READING off this list, there's a time and place.

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    1. i meant to read to your kids. have a small book to look at together. it does not seem too different than reading and doing the games on the placemat. but - i also let my kids bring in a book to read if they want. we are together all day, so if they want to read while waiting for our food i would not mind. of course, if it was a celebration meal or we were with friends, i think it would be inappropriate.

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    2. You know what I think is rude? When parents think their three year old can sit for an hour doing nothing without getting bored. It doesn't take a two year old the full meal to eat that it does an adult. And then they get bored and then the rest of the restaurant has to put up with their boredom, too.

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    3. It is unrealistic to think kids can sit without things to do. It would be rude of ME to not let my kids do something and disturb other people as they are trying to eat.

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  16. Thank you! I really need to pack some flashcards and pipe cleaners for our next outing :-)

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  17. BTW I'm all for socializing kids..but sometimes keeping them entertained and HAPPY trumps preconceived notions of rudeness for the littles. Reading should stay!

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    1. I agree. Reading aloud or to themselves, either way it's on my list for sure.

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  18. We make a tic-tac-toe board out of the knives on the table and use the sugar and sweet & low packs on the tables as our markers

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    1. That is such a cool idea!

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  19. Our go-to restaurant game has always been "which hand is it in?" Use the straw paper and crumple it up, one person starts by hold the paper in their fist and the little ones guess which hand it's hidden in....whoever gets it right gets to hide it next. Super nice when you forget to bring anything with you.

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  20. These are fabulous ideas Amy!! Thank you for sharing! Pinning this! Love the random knock knock jokes!

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  21. We have just started venturing out to eat with our kids and these will be a lifesaver. Thanks, pinning this now. Vicky from www.messforless.net

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  22. Love it! My kids are big fans of I Spy, too!

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  23. I keep a game of "Left Center Right" in my purse for when we're out. It is a dice/chip game that is about six dollars and comes in a tube about the size of a roll of coins. Not only is it easy to learn and play, but it is also a socialization opportunity. We only play it while out, so it is for "special occasions". You can find the game at walmart next to the cards.

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  24. Thanks for sharing! Stamping with playdough has always been a big hit with my children. We just bring a small container of playdough and a few stamps and we're all set for hours of fun. Also small magna doodlesl work wonders too. You can draw anything forever... pictures, words, games.

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  25. Thanks for the tips. My guy definitely has to be entertained while waiting so these are great. Just shared them on my fb wall =)

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  26. I love all these ideas!! My kids cannot sit still for to long in a restaurant so I always bring something for them to do, usually crayons (for tic tac toe, hangman or just drawing), books (yes I do read books to my kids in the middle of a restaurant b/c I'd rather keep them occupied then expect them to sit still that long or start being a nuisance to others around us by being to loud or antsy), we have done play doh also :) I'll def be giving these other ideas a try!!!

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  27. Wow! This is brilliant! Going to share it! I feel like everybody need to read this post! Thank you!@ AZNannies.

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  28. We always sing songs when we're waiting and the kids are getting bored. I start the song quietly and the kids join in. I will be trying some of these other tips now, especially in places where our singing is not as appreciated! :)

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  29. Emily Howard8/26/12, 8:46 AM

    We play "guess my animal". My now 6 yo made this up a couple years ago. One person thinks of an animal and the guessers get 1 clue. If they can't guess it they ask for 1 more clue, etc. Usually we just keep guessing until someone gets it. My kids love this game and they learn things they didn't know about some animals#

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  30. There are plenty of iPhone apps geared toward young kids that are multi-player as well as educational. These were always a savior for long waits with a 5 yr old, and it's not anti-social if you're playing educational games together.

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  31. Great ideas! I'm always looking for ways to keep my kids happy (and quiet!) when we have to wait. There are some really fun flashcards and activity cards from Usborne Books at http://s3480.myubam.com/c/14/flashcards-activity-cards My personal favorites are the doodle cards that come with a dry erase marker. I hole-punch the corner of all the cards and keep them on a binder ring for easy portability!

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  32. I have teenagers but am constantly pinning ideas for my friends with little ones. Awesome ideas!! I still to this day carry a pack of cards in my purse for emergency waiting occasions even though my kids are 16 and 18! It's getting to be a lost art to have a conversation in the car or restaurant without being entertained by some electronic device.

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  33. Here via Pinterest... Gotta testify to the origami thing. I keep a little packet of 3-inch or so squares in my purse at all times. It's great for awkward restaurant dinners with coworkers, too - just pass it around and see what people come up with. Last night I was at an outdoor event with friends, and we started making paper airplanes. The children in front of us were intrigued, so we made instant friends. The mother was grateful for the distraction, too, as the event was longer in starting than anticipated. Origami to the rescue!

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  34. I thought I was the only person that plays ispy at a restaurant! Lol! My kiddos love it!

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  35. LOL.... knock knock
    who's there
    cargo
    cargo who?
    orange banana sock puppet!!!

    We had a doctor do origami once for my daughter! I need to learn it!

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  36. Lol condiment tasting is genius. My 2 yr old doesn't talk much more than a few words and doesn't listen at all. He always has to be throwing something or running around. He won't sit long enough to color or read a book. EVER. So I know he won't do it at a restaurant. We mostly stay away from restaurants though :/

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  37. These are great for older kids but not the toddlers that aren't quite talking yet. In that case, I takeanold makeup bag in my purse and fill it with old brushes and empty conpacts, my 1 1/2 year old loves it. Personally, I used to say I wouldn't be the parent with their kid watching videos when out at a restaurant, but that of course changes when nothing you try will keep them in their seat except Mickey Mouse. And yes, we could just not go to a restaurant, but cabin fever usually kicks in and we will do anything to have dinner out.

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  38. I just found your blog today, and I can't stop clicking on all of your posts! :-) Your creative activities with your kids are mesmerizing me--and inspiring me! Way too often, I rely on electronics to keep my kids entertained at restaurants. But, I am inspired to try some of these ideas!!

    Thank you. I am a new FAN!

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  39. Another great one for older kids is a game we made up while waiting at the dinner table. We call it "The Movie Game" now. One person names the title of a movie, any movie, and the next person has to think of a movie that begins with the last letter of the movie. For example, if someone says "Rango", the next person might say, "Oceans Eleven." Now we have all sorts of technical rules that include if a movie has multiple words in the title the next movie will start with the first letter of the last word, like The Cat in the Hat and then Happy Gilmore.

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  40. I used to be a server at a very popular family restaurant (Texas Roadhouse). I know that a lot of people would order their children's food to come out earlier than their own food, that way the little ones didn't have to wait so long. Then the children would color in our little coloring pages, while the parents finished. Half the time we order out kids food first, and then by the time we are done eating so are our children, LOL I think my kiddos just eat slow. It also helps to order you kids food first if they need help eating their food. I am sure other restaurants will do this if you ask.

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  41. Is this the tijuana flats in Melbourne, FL?

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    1. Yes a TF! But not in Melbourne, Lakeland.

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  42. My five-year-old loved playing rock-paper-scissors. (Gambling! Don't judge.)

    My sister used to let my niece smack the saltine packages to death and eat the shreds. She loved it!!

    I lived and died by washable crayons and magna-doodle. But my mother was the one who never left home without a dinosaur or two in he purse...

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  43. I bought a little bag of interesting items from Amazon called "Think-ets". You lay them out for a moment or so and the kids try to memorize as many of the items as they can. Or, they make a story about each item, or after laying the items out, you remove one when they aren't looking and they try to figure out the missing item. You could make your own little "think-et" bag of interesting items for your next trip to a restaurant or anywhere when kids have to quietly entertained. The kids love their "Think-ets" trinkets and it's a fun way to pass the time.

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  44. We play word association first person says a word like "sky" the next person says the fist word they think of like "blue" then the next person says the word they think of for blue such as "water" my kids are both teenagers now but they will still ask to play if we get stuck waiting someplace.

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