My husband and I eat out every Friday night. It’s always been a little ritual of ours. So when we had a baby it was only natural to keep doing the same thing. My little guy is pretty used to eating out. When eating out with friends they normally comment on how well behaved my son is. I don’t think this happens by accident. I think three things contribute to this…
- We eat out often so he knows how to behave and what is expected of him.
- We come prepared to dinner with activities.
- We schedule dinner at times that work for his schedule (yes, that means we are eating with the seniors, but we don’t mind. There typically aren’t any lines at this time!).
All that being said, that doesn’t mean he is always a perfect angel! I typically have a few tricks up my sleeve (or in my diaper bag) for use when he gets restless. I’m not big on devices so I try to avoid that at all costs. I’m not suggesting going out to buy all these toys. You might actually have some of them around the house already. I’m just giving you some ideas of what works for us!
I think another key to these items is that your child shouldn’t get to play with these items all the time. They are items that are special for when you are eating out. When your child gets tired of a toy/activity have a few handy so that he can have a different one. Sometimes it’s even fun to let your child have a combo of toys and watch them combine the two object into one activity.
Here are a few of my favorite things to keep a toddler busy while eating out at a restaurant.
- Water Wow Books by Melissa and Doug – These things are amazing. There is a “pen” that has a built in storage in the book so you don’t loose it. You put water in the pen and color the pages. But then when the pages dry everything is erased and ready for the next time you want to use it. You don’t have to worry about wasting paper as the supply is endless.
- Silicone Baking Cups and Dot Cutouts – This one might sound a little odd. However, this activity keeps my son entertained longer then anything else. My son loves to sort and stack things. So he used the silicone baking cups (think reusable cupcake tins) that I had laying around the house and will sort little pieces of paper in them. He also likes to stack the cups. The cups are a little sticky so they don’t fall off the table easily.
- Tegu Blocks – The Tegu blocks travel pack is AMAZING. These blocks aren’t cheap but let me tell you we have gotten our money’s worth times 10 with them. They consistently keep my son entertained.
- Small Cars – So my son actually has small trains that hook together. They are tiny and I can fit a handful in a ziplock bag. Here are the trains my son has But honestly any small vehicle would work like this.
- My First Double Doodle Board – It’s reusable and two sided. My son tends to like it even more then paper and crayons.
- Trinket Toys from Goodwill – My Goodwill has a trinket section. You can fill a 1/2 gallon sized bag with McDonald toys for $2. After taking the toys home to be washed my son loves to explore the new toys. And if they get lost we don’t mind. We have found some real gems in this lot!
- Small Books – My son used to love crinkle books when he was 1 and younger. But now he is really into the small books by Mo Williams.
- Stickers and sticker books – Stickers can normally keep my son entertained for a good 10 minutes. If they are car or dog stickers you might have 15! This is probably my son’s favorite sticker book.
- Linking Toy Rings – Seriously kids think of a million ways to use the same toy. My son will wear these as bracelet, put them on his feet, link them together to make a long string, and hook them to whatever he can find.
- Play Dough – O how kids can play with Play Dough all day long! They make mini Play Doughs that are great for the diaper bag! Now that my son is a little older I also keep play dough scissors and a few cookie cutters in my bag too. This little set is perfect for kids who are starting to explore cutting and slicing.
- Wikki Stix – These are great for sensory (they are a little sticky) and hand eye coordination. At this age everything is educational! But really, your kids will love these.
- Travel Craft Set – My son is now two and a half and this is by far his most used restaurant toy. We were lucky enough to find a travel craft set on clearance at the Disney store a while back and he LOVES it. I couldn’t find the exact set he has online, but I think something like this would be perfect. It’s a tad big to fit in your diaper baby but just plop it in the car and bring it with you when you go in somewhere. It will surely keep your little one entertained!!
- Memory Game – So this one is for kids over two. But my son has recently started playing games. Memory happens to be one of his favorite games. At this point he is content just playing it by himself but at restaurants we will often make it a family activity which is fun for everyone.
- Fidget Spinner – I would have thought that these toys were for older kids. However, while on a play date a mom friend of mine pulled one out of her diaper bag and it kept both our kids occupied for a good long while. The plastic ones are safer for smaller kids.
- The Secret Weapon: Candy – When my kid is on the verge of meltdown I offer mini M&Ms or Pez dispensers or some times even a bag of Fruit Loops. This is great for when we have had a long dinner and we are past bed time.
I hope you have enjoyed this list and have found it helpful! Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for when you take your toddler out? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!