26 March 2006

Restaurant survival kit

Cathy has her own trick for keeping her daughter occupied while eating out:

I created a restaurant survival kit custom made for my toddler. I bought a plastic pencil box and filled it with a pad of paper, washable crayons, and (most importantly) stickers. She does not have access to stickers at any other time, so they really keep her attention. The items you put in your kit definitely depend on your kid, but from about 2 on, our daughter became so engrossed with peeling stickers that she was completely silent and occupied until our food came. You will have to peel the backing off the sticker sheets to keep your kid from becoming frustrated and throwing a tantrum.

Here are a few more toddler-in-restaurant ideas.

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We use the free restaurant crayons to restock our survival kit crayon supply.

Once while traveling, we ended up at a asian noodle retaurant during a particularly busy time. On previous visits, service had been quite quick, so I foolishly left my "bag of tricks" in the car; I had to improvise. On hand? Water, napkins, and several sets of chopsticks.

We ended up playing:
* What letters can we make with chopsticks? (Dad and five-year-old taking turns, with two-year old copying)
* Aliens from out space (with chopstick antennae, of course)
* Pickup sticks (Five-year-old's favorite)
* Drums (One-year-old's favorite, of course)

Oh, and we used the napkins to clean up a spilled water cup :)

Cloth napkins can become bunny or ghost puppets when the corners are tied into knots; paper napkins can become origami; soda straw wrappers can be squished into worms; menus can be fodder for alphabet games; and paper placemats can be turned over and used as drawing paper (you do carry crayons, right?).

Most importantly, the kids can be engaged in coversations, starting at surprisingly young ages, with the various props and toys above as cues for the chat rather than things to keep them busy on their own (that idea never works).

Side benefit - kids that can carry on a conversation, who willingly sit still in a restauraunt without cruising or annoying other patrons because they WANT to talk to you instead of being talked at.

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