You only need to go on a holiday where you are eating out with your Things all the time to realise that they have incredibly short attention spans. I know that sounds obvious but at home it is so much easier. Its not like you sit them down at a table to wait while you cook dinner. They can get up and refill their own drink (or even yours if they’re feeling generous). If you’re not stricter than me then they will probably be allowed to start dessert before the whole table has finished. There’s no denying it. Restaurants are really boring if you are a Thing. After the trip to Jordan, we found we had got things down to a fine art. So here are my top 9 lightweight boredom busters for kids in restaurants:
(* Full Disclosure – all of them are thanks to Granny Wanderlust’s incredible organisational skills)
1. Colouring / writing
From colouring and scribbling to dot-to-dots and mazes to writing and drawing. Clearly you don’t want to take an entire library of activity books with you but a well researched one (preferably one that is handbag sized!) can go a long way! Better still, a blank notebook can buy you hours of entertainment. Ok, maybe not HOURS… but a decent amount of time while waiting for a meal to arrive.
2. Toy cars
I mean this could actually be any toy that moves. We like cars, busses, trains, hovercrafts, planes and helicopters. The Things love driving them around a table, they will park them in neat rows or even just to spin the wheels as a substitutes fidget spinner! Now you don’t want to bring too many or it’ll defeat the point of them being light and easy to transport. But a couple each make a great boredom buster.
3. Card games
A bit more geared at slightly older kids (Thing 2 at age 3 is just getting into this) but an absolutely brilliant one for us was a game of something like snap or top trumps. In Jordan we had a pack of cards, a park of top trumps and a game of travel Guess Who.
4. Paper and pencil games
Remember that blank notebook? Dig it out and initiate a paper and pencil game. Winners with us included noughts and crosses (aka tic-tac-toe) and hangman. Hangman is interesting to play when you have a 5 year old learning phonics rather than the traditional letters that we are used to.
5. I’m thinking of…
This was our most popular game while we were in Jordan! The list of it is that one person thinks of a number or an animal (you could easily add categories for older Things). The person then gives 1-3 clues about the number. So for example, if I was thinking about the number 3, I would say that it has 1 digit and makes me think of Thing 1. Or if I was thinking of 15, I would say it was a number with 2 digits, between the numbers 10-20 and divisible by 3. If I was thinking of an animal I might choose a giraffe and describe a big animal with a long neck. This game got played at pretty much every meal and often in the car or on long walks too!
6. Dice games
Not something that we ended up doing but while we were away it struck us that dice games would be another option to keep the Things occupied. I’m thinking of games like Yahtzee and Boggle but I also found some other great ones like Mountain and Run For It on Fun Attic’s website.
I-Spy has to be one of those universal games that have been played since the beginning of time! Thing 1 is pretty good at it now and, since starting phonics at school, we can usually do something beginning with a sound. An easier version that we developed when he was younger (and now use with Thing 2) is to simply name the colour of the object and to let them guess from there.
Dominoes has been a hit in our house for almost a year now and the Things never seem to tire of playing it. This is slightly heavier and bulkier than some of the other options, and you’ll need a decent sized space at the table, but it’s another winner with my Things.
On the (very) rare occasion that we pitched up at a restaurant without anything, Rock-Paper-Scissors got us out of a few tight situations. We aren’t great at playing – the Things are so competitive that they usually wait a full 5 seconds after one of the adults has shown their choice so they could choose accordingly haha! But we are working on that side of games with them (it’s an ongoing battle!) and still enjoy the game in the meantime.
So there you have it. My top 9 lightweight boredom busters for kids in restaurants) all in one place. My other top tip is to make sure they are comfortable. For tips on how to find the best travel high chair, head over to Travel Gear for Kids where they have one of the most comprehensive reviews I’ve read. https://travelgearforkids.com/best-travel-high-chair/
How do you entertain your Things in a restaurant?
Great ideas. We have a London-Auckland flight coming up soon so hunting down all the lightweight ideas I can. For younger ones we love the mini magnetic drawing boards and the Crayola Colour Wonder colouring books. We’ve had a few now so have a good collection of the “magic” pens now.
I love those colour wonder books! We have hundreds of those pens lol xx
Great ideas Emma thanks! We also play the “question game” eg name 5 countries beginning with the letter “m” etc.
Oooh I love this idea! It even has a travel theme – perfect!