23 June 2006

Extra spoons as restaurant entertainment for baby

Here's how Steve keeps his baby happy while out to eat:

Whenever we go out to eat, we ask the wait person for 10 extra spoons. Then we give them one at a time to the baby to play with. It's usually pretty hard for her to hurt herself with a spoon, and they're shiny and fun to play with (especially because she's used to this). When they fall and get dirty, we give her the next one rather than try to clean it off. Anyplace we go, they always have a large supply of these nontoxic "toys". When the 10th spoon hits the ground (30-45 minutes), that's usually the end of her patience with sitting anyway, so that's our cue to leave (or to take her for a walk and come back if it's a long event).

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We've done this with our twin nieces. Especially great when they're at that teething stage, though one enjoyed it more than the other. One of them really liked it when we dipped the spoon in ice water for a few seconds before handing it over.

That's a good one!

This is a great tip. We typically use whatever extra spooons are on the table... it never dawned on me to ask for a couple more!

Let me first say that this is my favorite parenting blog (I check it about twice daily and have gotten a ton of great advice), but I'm a little surprised by this posting. My MIL has attempted to give a spoon to my daughter while in a restaurant and I am staunchly against it. I can't think of anyone in a restaurant who would be pleased to listen to a child banging a spoon on hard surfaces, not to mention my daughter would choke herself since she sticks everything in her mouth as far as it goes. Aren't there other ways of entertaining such as soft toys that would be less offensive? Perhaps I am oversensitive to the people around me?

Jennifer -- I don't think you're oversensitive to others... kids will most certainly make a racket with anything you give them IF YOU LET THEM. But if you're consistent about asking/showing them *not* to make too much noise, you might get some results. If not, just take the spoons away. She'll quickly figure out that if she wants to play, she has to do so responsibly.

As for the choking worry, I'm firmly of the opinion that kids are smart enough to only do things that are uncomfortable/painful a limited number of times before they figure out "hey, sticking this spoon down my throat *isn't* fun".

I like this hack.

It sounds remarkably similar to a trick that our friend started using at a Moe's burrito place (think subway with burritos or qdoba with better food and more options). She would grab a handful of the plastic salsa cups at the salsa bar and slowly dole them out to her infant son as necessary.

We quickly appropriated the practice and it can keep our son occupied for quite a while. The nice thing about the cups are that they are small and quiet when dropped and have a unique (to him) shape. They also serve quite well as nice little building blocks.

Now when we go to other restarauntsa and fast food stops we are always on the look out for items that can serve as infant amusements. Here are a couple:

* Additional placemats... good for drawing or creating other amusements (you do care a leatherman micra with you, don't you?) such as snowflakers, paper dolls, spiral snakes. For the snake, just cut out a spiral starting from the outside of the placemat and work in. Make the head a little bigger in the center, then pick it up just behind the head - as all good snake handlers do, of course- and let the spiral drop below it. Pump your arm up and down a little (make hissing sounds) and watch the toddler amazement. I used to do this for the toddlers that I babysat in high school. They loved it and I ended up showing their parents how to do it.

* Additional cloth napkins. Tie some well placed loose knots and they make nice dolls and puppets (untie before you leave). Also good for peek-a-boo (or "who's hiding?" as we like to call it). Another fun thing to do, especially with an infant that is just figuring out how to grasp things in hand, is to give them a corner of the cloth napkin and make sure they have a good hold. Then take the opposite corner and gently flutter it and down. I guaranty they will squeal with glee.

* Spoons, as mentioned above, but I never thought to ask the wait staff for a supply to start out with... have to file that one away. We have been vigilant with our son about not banging them from early on. He knows that we take them away if they become a problem. Really not too big a deal, and, with carpeted floors, they aren't noisy when dropped.

* In fast food places that serve in paper boats or baskets, ask for a couple more of those. Kids love them.

* Menus. Our son loves to flip though the pages and point to the pictures. Just ask the waiter if he can leave one AND also ask for the desert or drink list. It just adds to the variety.

* If the restaraunt puts a piece of paper over the table in place of placemats and you don't have a pen, ask for one (they have them) and make a large piece of artwork. They're going to change it afterwards, so they won't care. Even before we had kids we would do this. A couple of waiters have said that they were going to keep the large doodles that we worked on throughout dinner... so, dare to be outrageous (but still polite).

We did this with our 9 yyo at her first office Xmas party. It totally floored the "big" boss who also had a 1 yo. It has continued to be a conversation topic all these years

Drinking straws are also great. For a long time, the perfect way to pacify Elizabeth in a restaurant was to give her straws to hold. Preferably 3, for some reason.

And peek-a-boo with the napkin is great if you have to wait a while for your food.

i use spoons & straws. in fast food restaurants, i ask for a plastic cup.

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