5 Things Kids Can do in Restaurants that is Not Video Games

In recent years, we have noticed a trend while eating out at restaurants. Families are sitting down to enjoy a meal out and the children are given their tablet or a phone to entertain themselves with. It works perfectly so that the children do not make a disturbance in public and the adults get to enjoy a meal. It is a quick and easy fix. Parenting is a twenty-four-seven job, and being in public adds the scrutiny of society when kids act, well like kids, onto a very heavy plate. No one wants to get the stares and whispers from strangers about their kids, so a tablet in the hands of young ones allows them to be quiet and well behaved. We get it!

However, when a child is given a tablet out in public or in a social situation, they are losing out on learning social cues, practicing conversation skills, and engaging with others. Mealtime offers so many learning opportunities. When their focus is on a YouTube video or an app, they are zoned out of real life. They are not learning how to be bored and then how to entertain themselves. Kids need to learn these tools to thrive as adults, and when they are not taught any of these as children, then they do not have them as young adults or adults. 

We are not here to judge parents, however in the past decade, we have noticed the effects of technology on children in our classrooms. More and more children are entering school with less social emotional knowledge, they have trouble connecting with others, they struggle with focusing and paying attention, and they do not know what to do when they are bored.

When going to restaurants we recommend not having technology at the table. Instead try one of the following things with your children.

  1. Activity books: There are so many activity books available for children. Some have stickers, others have puzzles, and others combine both. These types of activities can be both done independently or with others. Kids will love to share what they are working on too.
  1. Travel Games: There are a lot of travel games that are the perfect size to take with you to restaurants. Travel games are small, compact, and easy to put away and carry. Kids love playing games and these provide entertainment for the whole family. 
  1. Small bags of Legos: Kids love legos. Pack a few small baggies of Legos to take to the restaurant and let them build different things. 
  1. Mats: Take your own mats to the restaurants. We love these Smart Mats because they are educational and fun. They also have different mats for different ages. There are also place mats for toddlers that are more play based. 
  1. Coloring Books: A simple coloring book is a classic restaurant go to. Coloring is both therapeutic and quiet and comes in many forms. 

We do feel that teaching children to sit through a meal without an activity is the ultimate goal. We also understand that restaurants can pose certain challenges and when you need a little something, we find these to be much healthier than a tablet or phone. With these activities, children are still able to interact with the family. When children are glued to a device, it’s a different story.

It might be difficult the first few times, it won’t be perfect, and you could get some stares from others, however at the end of the day you will teach your child how to converse, how to engage with others, and how to behave in a restaurant. With practice your child will learn to enjoy eating at a restaurant without a device.

We are not against technology. We think that life is about balance. Children need to learn about balance with technology, and it is up to us to teach them those skills.

Let Kids Be Bored

Today’s parents often feel the need to plan out, have activities, and make sure that their children are entertained all the time. This puts a lot of pressure on the parents to make sure that kids are never bored. Boredom has become synonymous with bad parenting, but in reality, children need the time and space to be bored. And you are not a bad parent if sometimes your child is bored.

A recent study found that boredom can spark individual productivity and creativity. When a person is bored, they allow their minds to wander and daydream. This enhances creative thinking and problem solving. 

Boredom also allows children to be self reliant. When left up to their own devices they have to decide what they want to do. According to Lyn Fry, a child psychologist told  Quartz, “Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy. If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”

Having to discover what you like to do when you are bored will also allow children to find what they’re really interested in. These interests could lead to passions or hobbies in their lives. However, if they are constantly going from one activity to another, they will never have the down time to figure out where their interests lie. Finding out what makes you happy is important for everyone, especially as children grow up. 

Let your child be bored and they might gruffle and groan for a bit. Stay the course, and  eventually they figure out how to entertain themselves. Whether it is playing with toys they forgot about, building forts out of pillows, writing stories, designing a board game, coloring and painting, or playing imaginative games, children will find ways to entertain themselves. Disconnect your child from all forms of technology, leave them alone, and you would be surprised at the creativity they can unleash.

We often model for children the need to multitask. We overschedule ourselves and our children. We constantly check our phones, email, social media, watching TV and are constantly staying connected. Start by modeling for your children an afternoon of zero technology and just sitting, reading a book, having a conversation with a partner,  or coloring. Show them that it is ok to not do anything sometimes. 

Do not feel bad for having a weekend where nothing is planned. Sometimes social media makes parents feel bad when they are not out at an immersive educational adventurous location. That is not real life, and no one will judge you if every once in a while you and your child do nothing. 

Boredom is good for a child’s development and for parents too. We all need down time. Finding the balance between our go-go-go lives and just being is absolutely necessary for all of us. 

We are here to say, “Let kids be bored!”