How to Occupy Kids at Restaurants

We’ve all been there. Mom is so excited for a night off from cooking and Dad comes home early to enjoy an unrushed evening all together; however, this trip to a restaurant is quickly derailed when your child decides he just isn’t having it!

A fussy, rowdy, or unhappy child can sour any fun family outing, but it can feel especially frustrating when your child misbehaves while you’re trying to enjoy the treat of a dinner out. To avoid this for your next culinary outing, try one of these techniques to keep your kids occupied at a restaurant.

Establish expectations before going.
Depending on the age and personality of your children, the bustling atmosphere of a restaurant may be a lot to process. Prepare your children for the noise and excitement and be clear about your expectations for how they should behave before leaving home. A child who is overwhelmed and caught off guard is much more likely to act out.

Bring a busy bag.
This takes a little preparation but bringing along a bag of positive distractions can be a lifesaver. An important tip: Avoid toys with lots of pieces. After all, no one wants to pick up Legos from under a restaurant table. Instead, opt for toys like Rubik’s cubes, coloring books, squishy toys without sound effects, or magnetic puzzles.

Turn the menu into a scavenger hunt.
A quick peak at the menu will allow you to customize your scavenger hunt. Make a short list of things for your child to find in the menu. If you have multiple children, make it a race for who can find the items fastest. You can choose things as general as “Something that swims” or “something that flies,” or you can get specific with “something that would taste spicy” or “something you’d find in Italy.” Adjust the items on your scavenger hunt to fit the age of your kids.

Have your child act as your host.
If your child is prone to acting out for attention, give him some positive attention by allowing them to run the show. As a memory game, have your child order for the table and be the table’s primary communicator for any questions you may have for the server.

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