Ever since our kids were tiny, we've been taking them out to eat. It's one of our favorite things to do, so from the beginning, we were determined to teach them how to sit still long enough to get through a meal. Happily, without meltdowns. It's not always seamless, and with a baby in the mix, we're bound to encounter new hurdles, but we've come up with a few strategies over the years that make the experience enjoyable for all.
1) Order a kid drink upon sitting. Our kids usually drink milk or water at home, so ordering a lemonade is a treat. Having it in front of them before we even order makes for a great start to the meal. (We encourage them to drink it slowly or they'll fill up and won't eat. Not a great start to the meal.)
2) Order an adult drink upon sitting. Whether it's alcoholic or not - this sets the tone for us, too! I usually choose a local IPA beer.
3) Notebooks & a bag of crayons. We always bring a notebook for each kid, plus a bag of crayons to share. It's become such a habit for them to draw when we're out to eat, that the times I've forgotten to bring these things, we use old receipts from our wallets and borrow a pen from the restaurant. It's amazing how these simple things keep them occupied.
4) Exquisite Corpse. (A recent example in photo above.) This is one of our favorite drawing activities. It cracks us up every time we open the folded paper to reveal the wonky body form come to life. (Here's a little tutorial on how to play. They use three people, but we use two.)
5) Tic tac toe. A classic. Of course it's easy to win every time (and easy to let them win every time!) but do not! It's so much more fun to let them get a sense for "real" competition. :)
6) Rock Paper Scissors. Another classic. It's always a thrill when you get to wrap that Paper around Rock!
Our strategies rely pretty heavily upon paper and crayons because that's what we find most fun. Do you have any go-to activities that don't involve these things? Or amazing ones that do? I would SO love to hear!