Ideas for Things To Do With Bored Kids in Restaurants

by 2uesday

It happens to us all, well anyone with kids, you plan a nice meal out and the food takes ages to arrive, the kids are bored and restless. Here are some ideas to 'save the day'.

The kids are bored, you are all tired and want to eat and now the people at the next table do not look very amused or friendly.

Time to take a deep breath or count to ten, does that work, not really. OK then here are ideas for things to do to pass the time when you find yourself waiting for the food to arrive at your table.

We all know it is easier to be relaxed in some restaurants than others but in any case you need to find something to amuse the children until they can eat.

What are the tricks you can have up your sleeve to keep everyone happy, when the kids become bored in a restaurant ? Here are a variety of ideas to keep them entertained while eating out.

Entertaining the Kids in a Restaurant.

Sometimes when visiting a restaurant you can plan ahead and you take things with you to keep the kids busy. Other times the waiting just gets too much for them and you begin to wish you could just go home. So for days like that, what can you do?  


How to entertain bored kids.
kids in restaurants

When my kids were small when we traveled abroad we often had to find ways of keeping them amused when we went out for meals or were delayed when we traveled. Often we had to invent games for them to play. Sometimes the delay was unexpected and all we had to hand was paper and pencils or small hand held electronic pocket games. Ideas for both types of games are included here.

Now fortunately, there are lots of pocket sized games you can take with you, but if you have to you can still resort to a pen and paper.

Here are ideas for different types of entertainment to keep the kids busy while you wait.

There is even a section on how to fold a table napkin to make swan or bunny shapes.

Any game that requires the child to listen to you and think of an answer will hopefully keep them quietly entertained until the meal arrives.

'Guess What is in The Box'.

You can play this without a box for a prop. It is a version of the old fashioned game called - I spy.

A kids game that you can play anywhere.

I Spy is a Game that needs only your time and imagination.

A game that is easy to play and requires nothing more than imagination and patience is I Spy or a more upbeat version if you can manage to think of variations on it.

If you remember from your own childhood, I spy is based on letters of the alphabet so is only suitable for children who can understand that.

You say  "I Spy with my little eye something beginning with - (you then say the first letter of item you want the child to guess).  Younger children might need a variation of the game based on colors or shapes. It is usually best if you or another adult is the one who sets the I spy clue. It can get a bit quarrelsome if one child decides the other one is cheating.

guessing games
guessing games

Share Your List of Favorite Things.

Take turns setting the topic and each person then says their which is their favorite - they can tell you why they like and selected that as a favorite if they want to

Some ideas  for favorite topic lists could be -  favorite flavor of ice cream

  • Favorite colors, best film, best day out, best singer, best song, best book etc.

Draw a clock face and practice telling the time.

clock face
clock face

Ask the staff as some restaurants will lend you crayons and paper for the kids to use.

coloring ideas
coloring ideas
If you draw with simple line shapes they can be copied by the kids.
draw animals to color
draw animals to color
Draw an animal in stages and let the child try to guess what the animal is.
drawing animals
drawing animals

The child can color in the animal when they have guessed it and you have finished drawing it.

A place where you can find fun coloring in animal pictures for little kids.

A scribble & writing game to help children learn shapes and letters.
LeapFrog Scribble and Write
$21.99  $15.64
Make a Swan from a table napkin.
Napkin Folding - the candle.
Make a Bunny From a Table Napkin.
For a toddler you can make a hat from a paper napkin. This idea will only work for a short time.
A Game that is easy to take with you to entertain the kids when you are waiting in restaurants on trains or at airports.

This game is suitable for children over the age of six years and is suitable for 2-8 players.

Although the Spot It Game is designed to be played by more than one player, some children might be happy just matching up the symbols/objects on the cards on their own. The cards also offer the opportunity to discuss colors and objects with younger children. Such as saying to them - can you see the blue fish on this card, now can you find another blue fish etc. it will require you interacting with them but it will help to pass the time and to keep them seated at the table.

Spot It Game.

A easy to take with you game to amuse kids.

A game in an easy to carry case.

Spot It

There is always one, and only one, matching symbol between any 2 cards in this party game. Spot it and you win! A sharp eye and a little bit of speed is all it takes to become a...

View on Amazon

A game to play with just a paper and a pencil or pen.

A Drawing Version of Playing Consequences.

This is a version of the game consequences which just requires a piece of paper and pens or pencils.

First - you need to explain to the child how the game works. 

Say something like  -

  • I am going to draw something on one piece of paper and you draw something on your piece of paper.
  • Next you fold the paper to hide the picture and I fold mine, then you give me your paper and I give you mine. 

Next you repeat this 3 or 4 times each time you are continuing to draw the next stage of your picture. When you folding and exchanging paper/drawings, make sure you are folding the paper so that when the paper is opened out all the drawings are on the same side of the paper.

At the end you open out the folds in the picture and laugh (hopefully you all laugh) at the funny picture you have made. 

The best way to do this is to set a subject for the drawing - say a flower or an animal like a pet or a fish.

It does not always work out well as a drawing, but it does help to pass the time until the meal arrives or the flight is called or the late bus arrives.


Play A Story Game.

This is an idea that is useful whenever you are waiting with your kids.

Sometimes you are stuck waiting for something and all you have to entertain the kids is a piece of paper and a pen. What can you do to keep them occupied until the wait is over?

From experience of travelling with two children, I know that the very time you need something to keep them busy can be when you are least prepared. Stranded with no coloring books and crayons, no books to read and too tired to think up a good idea, one game often use to come to the rescue. 

It was called 'The Let Us Write a Story Together Game" it was a simple idea and the reason I think it works so well is because it lets you make them laugh and has a gentle element of competition about it. Everyone wants to tell the story their way, but as you take turns it will also take twists and turns and the cleverer you are the more you are likely to get it back on track to your own story idea.

Sometimes it can work well to give the characters the names the children know or to have pets in it that they know. Be careful with the using the kids own names if you know it might cause a dispute between them.

  • Mum or Dad starts the story and write down a line or two.

(You can do it without writing it down if you have no pen and paper). 

  • Next person follows on and adds two or three sentences to the story.

(They can tell it to you or write it down themselves if they want to.) 

  • Carry on building your story add drawings if they need inspiration or distraction and hopefully whatever you are waiting for arrives before you have finished you family tale.
  • Reading it out loud to recap how far you have got with it, can be amusing and helps to pass the time too.

Kids' Games that fit in a small tin.

Need inspiration for telling the kids a story or for them to make up stories here are some helpful ideas in a tin.
Tell Tale

Tell Tale is the unique storytelling game where your imagination comes to life. You will take a journey into storyland as you improvise and listen to stories based on a variety ...

View on Amazon

Story Cubes a Game to take with you.

An easy to play story word game, carry it with you for instant entertainment for kids.
Zingo is a game for kids over four years old as the name suggests is a fun version of a Bingo type game.
ThinkFun Zingo

4 years & up. Zingo is a simple Bingo-style game, with a fancy plastic tile dispenser that kids just LOVE! Everyone who knows Zingo loves it, kids and parents alike. To play, pl...

View on Amazon

Zingo might not be ideal for playing in a quiet restaurant if the kids get excited and call out loudly as they play it; but it could be a good way to keep them entertained if the location is suitable. 

A place online where you can find something for little kids to do.

This is a link to a well recognized site that has a special section with fun activities for children.

National Geographic little kids activity page.
This is a website with lots of useful activities for little kids. The great thing is some of it is educational but fun.

You can buy a 'take it out with you games kit' or put together your own to suit the ages of your children.

Save yourself the hassle next time and take something to amuse the kids.

Ideas for Games to Take With You. Check age suitability before giving toys & games with small parts to young children. Magnetic parts are less likely to get lost.
Magnetic Travel Solitaire Game
A Small Version of Tetris.
Radica Fliptop Tetris
Tetris Game - small size.

Possibly too small to play on for long but handy to keep over 8's and pre-teens amused for a short time.

Check out the size before ordering as you might prefer to buy a larger version for longer sessions.

Buy a Restaurant Rescue Kit for Kids.

Manufacturers say the kit is suitable for 3 years old and over, as with all toys check it out before you use it with your child.
The Family Fun Rescue Kit & Guide - Restaurant Edition

Are you afraid to bring your kids to a restaurant? Avoiding running those errands because you don't want to deal with the impending melt downs? Well no more! Introducing The Fam...

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The Travel Edition.
The Family Fun Rescue Kit & Guide - Airport / Travel Edition

Got a bright, energetic child? Looking forward to your dream vacation but afraid getting the kids there & back will turn it into a nightmare?

View on Amazon

restaurant rescue kit
games kit
Life being the way it is - just as you get them interested in something the meal will arrive.

It may be a good idea if next time they are going out they are made responsible for picking something to take with them, to keep them amused while you wait.

You can keep the 'emergency entertainment toys' in a separate box and just let them pick something out when you think you might need it, as you are going out.

 Life can be more enjoyable if everyone can enjoy that meal out at a restaurant.

If you can find the perfection solution to the 'keeping them busy when they are bored ' dilemma; then slow food and enjoyable restaurant meals might become a pleasurable experience for all the family.

restaurant meals
Updated: on 01/09/2013, 2uesday
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


2uesday on 01/24/2013

Thank you, it would be good to think this helped to make a visit to a restaurant with young kids more enjoyable.

Guest on 01/24/2013

What a great page! I love all the tips!

katiem2 on 12/07/2012

I like the way you think :)

2uesday on 12/06/2012

That's true Katie, the family could club together to have a box of travel size games and the kids could share them out and play with them at family events. In fact as one child out grows a game it could be put into the family 'get together box' for the younger ones to use at gatherings like weddings and parties. Now who has a family get togethers that are big enough for me to test the idea out on?

katiem2 on 12/06/2012

Sue, That just gave me an idea, what about those big family gatherings? Kids of all ages often get bored at big dinners and such at family members homes. These ideas for kids could also save such an evening by having things available in a bag. Great idea indeed, we all have a safety survival kit in our car why not a parents survival kit? :)K

2uesday on 12/05/2012

True and sometimes for family events you find yourself in an restaurant that you would not have picked for your family. It is nice when the restaurants provide things to keep the children busy but as you say the things they offer are often boring for the kids to do.

katiem2 on 12/05/2012

BTW, this is so good I had to share, tweeting, liking and the works. Great tips. :)K

katiem2 on 12/05/2012

It's all great ideas, beats the coloring place mats. Kids get bored with the same color place mat every time they visit a restaurant.

2uesday on 12/03/2012

Thank you sheliamarie, from looking at your articles here I believe they must find being with you entertaining, you know so many ways to amuse them with crafts and stories.

2uesday on 12/03/2012

Thank you Katie, some of the ideas here were used when we felt as if we were in (what at the time felt like) the world's slowest food serving restaurants.

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