If your kids are anything like mine were when they were younger, the minute you sit down at the table in a restaurant they complain they’re bored. If you don’t feel like lugging crayons, paper, travel games and toy trucks with you to the restaurant, you’re going to have to find other ways to keep those kids entertained.
Keeping in mind that the items you find on restaurant tables vary from place to place and are sometimes dependent on the time of day, here are six way to keep kids entertained while you wait for your food, using common table items.
The Straw Paper Inchworm
This is a very cool trick that only requires straws and a few drops of liquid. Take your straw paper off by pushing it down the top of the straw and scrunching it accordion-style all the way down to the bottom of the straw. When you’re done, you should have a really tightly squished up piece of straw wrapper about an inch long.
Put the paper on a clear spot on the table and dip your straw into your drink. Place your finger over the top end of the straw to create a vacuum,just enough so that there is a little bit of liquid in the bottom of the straw. You’ll only need a few drops and you only need to release them one at a time.
Drip a little liquid in the most tightly packed area of the straw paper. As it absorbs the liquid, the paper will seem to crawl forward like an inchworm. Keep doing this until the paper doesn’t move anymore.
Sugar Packet Checkers
This is actually two activities built into one. First, you’ll need to use fold one of your napkins into a checkerboard. (For step-by-step directions with photos check out “How to Make a Napkin Checkerboard.”)
Then, you’ll need to gather all the sugar/Splenda/Equal packets on your table and make sure that you have enough for each side to have enough (12) of one color to play a game of checkers. If not, beg, borrow and steal from other tables.
Once you’re ready, set up the checkerboard, with one side using white sweetener packets and the other using pink, yellow or blue, and you’re ready to go!
This activity also needs sweetener packets, but since playing tic-tac-toe doesn’t require a lot of pieces, you should be good to go. Simply make your grid using four pieces of silverware, laying two vertically and two horizontally on top of the others. Knives work well because they are straight, but any combination of silverware will do.
Jelly Packet Fun
If you’re lucky enough to hit a restaurant at breakfast time --or one that serves breakfast all the time--there’s probably a bunch of rectangular jelly packets on the table. There are a number of options to keep your kids entertained with these packets. Younger children are usually very content to sort or make patterns with them, using a variety of different attributes, including color and flavor.
Older children will enjoy competing to see who can make the highest tower or playing Jenga with the jelly packets. If you’re really brave, you can also allow your children to build fortresses to “hide” behind as they blow straw papers or spitballs at each other.
Coaster Table Hockey
This isn’t a game that can be played at all restaurants, but when you find the right combination of cardboard coasters and a slippery table, the game is on! Simply sit your kids at opposite ends of the table (which is probably just common sense anyway) and give them each a coaster.
Clear the path between them, set up silverware goals in front of each of them and put another coaster in the middle. Though there’s no air to provide lift, like on a regular air hockey table, they can bat the coaster back and forth to try to make it into the goal.
Menu I Spy
Playing “I Spy” with the menu has endless possibilities. Younger children, older children and even the adults can get into this game, no matter how you play it. For the little ones, you can play using the pictures or sight words.For example, saying something like, “I Spy an item that has pickles and cheese on it,” or “On page one, I Spy an appetizer that uses the word ‘the’.” Older children can use the text of the menu to play, saying things along the lines of “I Spy a food that is made with ham, cheese, sauerkraut and....”