Before I was a parent, I didn’t have the knowledge or parental advice I have today regarding kids in restaurants and how to keep them quiet and behaved. I didn’t understand how there could be so many unruly kids at a restaurant. Why couldn’t they just leave their kids at home? Or go to another restaurant? Or LEAVE when their kids got crazy. Now, as a parent, I understand that sometimes you have no choice and you simply have to do something to entertain your children so they don’t drive you and other restaurant goers insane.
I have my kids pack a small back-pack full of quiet, fun, and usually educational toys. These include things like books (find the hidden picture books keep them quiet for a long time), crayons and paper, small cars and baby dolls. Other parent advice I followed with success is I sometimes make them books on the computer with their names in them and pictures of things I know they like (favorite cartoon characters). These are books they can read, color in, rip up, or whatever else may keep them occupied.
When the back-pack runs out of entertainment value, then I start in on some games. There are lots of games you can play when you use your imagination. Of course they love the classics like “I spy” (you describe something that you can see and they have to guess what it is) or “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing _______.” This is where you fill in the blank and have to remember what everyone else said before you. Adding on each time until there are too many to remember. Another favorite in my family is the color/food game. One person picks a color and the other person tries to think of 3 foods that are that color. So if my son picks the color green then my son would answer with “limes, green beans, and lettuce.”
There are endless word games that can be played with all ages of children. There is the name game, which is where one person says a name (Shirley Temple) and the next person has to take the first letter of the last name and use it as the first letter of their name (we’d use T, from Temple and the answer could be Thomas Edison, then the next person would use E). Another great word game is figuring out which word doesn’t belong. One person lists three words (apple, banana, car) and the other have to guess which one doesn’t belong (car). We also play the opposite game, where one person says a word and the other has to say the opposite.
Simple nursery rhymes are a great way to keep the kids entertained, as long as you get them to recite them quietly. My kids love to sing and we “whisper sing” at restaurants. Sometimes I will draw a picture (like a cow jumping over a moon) and they have to guess which nursery rhyme I drew. Then they try and draw a picture of a nursery rhyme for me to guess.
It is not impossible to have a fun, quiet dinner out with the kids. It simply takes some planning, creativity and following good, experienced parent advice. Hopefully you (and the people around you) are able to enjoy your next night out with the kids.