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10 Practical Ways to Entertain Kids at Restaurants

May 01, 2024 5 min read

A young boy looking bored as he waits at a restaurant.  His parents are sitting either side of him but they're distracted by their phones.  The image is well-lit with white, beige, peach fuzz tones.

The habit of eating home-cooked meals is good for your family's health.  However, doing it for a long time can become a little boring. That’s why occasionally eating out at restaurants is a fun experience. But here’s the problem: kids can have the patience of a goldfish!

They get bored quickly, even for simple things like waiting for meals. So you need healthy, entertaining techniquesto keep them occupied. Otherwise, you might have to deal with irritability issues threatening to spoil your family outing. Here are 10 practical ways to keep your child engaged as you wait for your meals.

1. Read the Menu Together

The menu is one of the most convenient tools for keeping kids busy at a restaurant. Whether it’s a drinks menu or a kids menu, they all make conversation starters.  As you scan the menu, start a little chit-chat about the colours or pictures on the cover or the type of cuisines you see inside. 

For example, you can discuss the different types of meals, flavours and ingredients.  What do they feel like eating? Would they like to try something different? Encourage your child to ask questions and be involved in ordering. The back-and-forth conversation keeps your child’s attention, makes them feel valued and encourages calmness.

2. Travel Toys

When you're at a restaurant, what better way to keep your children entertained than by bringing along their favourite toys?  Having them immersed in a fun and familiar world will immediately make them feel at ease.  Fortunately, there are a lot of toy options available for kids of all ages. 

Some of the best examples for toddlers include blocks, busy books, paper dolls, and puzzles. For older kids, you can buy story cubes, mini Rubik’s cubes, pocket magnifying glasses, and fidget toys. 

Aside from keeping your child busy, educational toys are also fantastic for their motor skills and brain development.

3. Read a Book

While books keep children engaged at school, parents also use them as part of a bedtime routine. There’s just something magical about books, so it’s only natural for your child to enjoy reading them at a restaurant. Throw a couple in your handbag or daypack and read them together in the restaurant. 

Look for the most interesting titles based on your child’s interests and age. Toddlers can benefit from board books with pictures, whereas older children prefer novels or non-fiction titles.  Books not only entertain kids but keep them learning on the go.

4. Family Conversations

A restaurant is the perfect place to relax as a family and enjoy everyday conversations without the usual interruptions at home. Start with open-ended cheerful questions for more enthusiastic responses: What interesting topics did you learn at school this week?  Who did you have lunch with today? How would you like to spend next weekend? 

You can also encourage your kids to ask you questions.  Getting kids involved leads to lively and entertaining discussions that will keep boredom away. You also get to bond with your kids, instilling good social behaviour outside your home.

5. Colouring Materials

Kids enjoy colouring pictures and it’s such an easy and effective way to keep them occupied while exercising their creativity and motor skills. You can find colouring sets in most toy shops and newsagencies, but quality is key. 

You want durable and reusable mats that you can clean and keep for future outings, saving you money in the long run.  Look for pictures and themes that will appeal to your child and keep them engaged for hours.  If the colouring pictures are very basic, children become bored quickly.  Likewise, if a colouring set has a limited range of colours. 

Drawing and colouring is an opportunity to extend your child’s natural creativity and challenge their skills.  If you want to maintain your child’s interest, don’t settle for the most basic colouring activities.  Invest in a colouring set that they’ll enjoy, time and time again.

6. Play Games

When it comes to keeping children busy at a restaurant, you can't go wrong with games. The beauty of it is that you have so many options to choose from. One common example is I Spy, which perfectly fits the restaurant setting. 

Restaurant scenes provide numerous items to ‘spy with my eye’. From decorative artefacts to colourful paintings, kids are spoilt for choice. A restaurant with a wide glass window is even better for observing items in the surrounding environment. 

Entertainment aside, children also learn to wait for their turn in the I Spy game, which is a lesson on patience. Other options to explore include compact versions of common board games, such as Connect 4 and Chess.  Popular card games like Uno are also convenient.

7. Straw Wrapper Worms

Toddlers and older kids can have fun with Straw Wrapper Worms. This is a simple activity yet one that’s exciting for kids. Simply hold the wrapped straw upright with one end on the table.  Then, slowly slide the wrapper down the straw until it reaches the lower end. Next, remove the wrapper and place it on the table.  Using the straw, drip small drops of water onto the wrapper. The straw expands and moves, resembling a wriggling worm.  You can also use straw wrappers for impromptu crafts such as twisted paper flowers.

8. Jigsaw Puzzles

A jigsaw puzzle makes wonderful entertainment for kids at a restaurant. One obvious advantage is its portability. You can just throw a puzzle in your bag and pull it out at the restaurant. 

Jigsaw puzzles provide the additional benefit of developing your child’s problem-solving and creativity skills. The best on-the-go puzzles have magnetic pieces which stay attached to a metal surface.  You can also buy compact puzzles with minimal pieces or puzzle mats to keep your completed jigsaw intact.  Other examples of puzzles include word searches and word wheels, crosswords, and puzzle books.

9. Origami and Papercraft

Next time you go to a restaurant, pop a pad of origami paper squares in your bag.  This is another simple yet fun option to spark creativity and keep boredom at bay.  You can also use your table napkins to create paper animals, flowers and more.  If you don’t yet know a few simple folding tricks, try to learn a few in advance.  This way, you can impress your kids and teach them something new. 

Origami and papercraft are inexpensive activities that are far more rewarding than screen-based play.  Give them a try and see your child’s imagination soar!

10. Playdough

Playdough is another brilliant choice for keeping your kids busy at restaurants.  Children of all ages enjoy playdough and, whether you make it from scratch or buy a pre-made tub, it’s so easy to transport. 

When you’re preparing for your restaurant outing, pack a few playdough colours so your kids have some variety to work with.  Since playdough is non-toxic and non-messy, it works well in a restaurant setting.  Kids love modelling various shapes, animals, flowers and more.  But, once they’re done using it, just put it back in its container for another day!

Learning to Keep Kids Busy at the Restaurant

As you’ve now discovered, entertaining kids at a restaurant can be super-easy. All you have to do is arm yourself with one or more of the methods above to keep boredom away.  So, while you relax and wait for your meals to be served, have some family fun and encourage your child’s development.  For more helpful articles and simple play products, visit our website and subscribe to our VIP list.


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