There are many ways to keep your child amused while waiting for your meal to be served at a restaurant, and many opportunities for some incidental learning in the process. Turn placemats into treasure maps, use sugar packets for a game of concentration (by hiding coins under some and trying to remember under which packet they are hidden), and when all else fails, keep your bag stocked with a pair of child’s safety scissors and crayons to turn paper mats into beautiful snowflakes or creative artwork.
Creating table games for children when their focus is on dinner may not be your top idea of a good time, but think how much more enjoyable the experience will be when everyone is having fun. Use this opportunity to involve your child in your dining plans and create a learning environment while you wait. The people at the next table will also appreciate how your children use this waiting time wisely, without screaming and running around the establishment – a clear sign that you have taught your children respect and manners.
How to keep young children amused
Here are a few ways to create some fun without leaving the table:
Napkin Puppet: Slip your hand inside a paper napkin. Bend your hand in half to create the mouth of a puppet. Let your child add facial features with a pen or crayons. This activity spells creativity.
Why not make a puppet yourself and have a two-way conversation with these imaginary friends? Or have everyone at the table make their own puppet and have the puppets “talk” to one another.
This idea provides a great way to help children with their communication skills. Get them talking about whatever strikes your fancy, or theirs. What did they order for dinner, how many waiters are there, what is their favorite color? Some children find that it is easier to express themselves through puppets, and using them can help children communicate with parents or other adults.
Line Game: On the back of a paper place mat or piece of scrap paper, draw several shapes in a column. Draw the same shapes in a different order in a second column. Give your child a crayon or pencil and have him draw lines between the matching shapes. As a variation, write letters or numbers in the columns instead of shapes.
This game promotes eye/hand coordination, observational skills, and develops the earliest of math skills when using shapes and numbers.
Play the Coaster Game: Collect three paper coasters. Let your child draw a design on the back of one of the coasters. Place the coasters on the table with the printed side up. Lift up the coaster with the design your child drew to show where it is, and then put it back in place.
Slowly move the coasters around to rearrange their positions. One move is a challenge for a young child, two or more challenge an older child. Ask your child to point to the coaster that has his design on it. Turn the coasters over to see if he was right.
Playing this simple game allows children to practice their problem solving and observational skills. Talk with your child about how he made his decision. What did he observe that helped him to know where the hidden picture was? As a variation, if the first guess is wrong, let you child try again — and again, talk about why he made his second choice.
Switch places with your child and let her move the coasters around. How did you do?
So you have to wait a while for the meal to arrive – that’s okay. With these fun games to keep even the youngest child happy, the time will pass with good memories, and your child will be learning at the same time.