Amusing children at restaurants with table games
by The Press and Standard | October 7, 2019 1:57 pm
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:
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.
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 the child 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.
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 challenges 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 your 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?
Table Games Encourage Family Participation
Have the entire family stare in one direction for about 30 seconds. The object is to see and remember as many details as you can. Then, turn away and write down every detail you saw, from the ceiling panels or colors to the type of wallpaper on the adjacent wall. Parents can help younger children with their lists. See who has the greatest observation skills. The one with the longest list wins. Your youngest may surprise you!
You may want to have older children share how they remembered certain items. Did they make connections between objects? This can help the little ones to strengthen their observational skills too. Next time, remembering that the tablecloths and the wallpaper are the same color, or that the pictures on the wall are all pictures of birds, will give them additional items for their lists and help them in developing their observational skills.
Whoever holds the talking stick (a pencil or straw) commands the floor. Pass the stick among the family members and create a story or just talk about your day. Using the “Talking Stick” will ensure that everyone’s ideas are heard and that everyone gets a turn to speak. Family conversation is priceless — so creative and perfect for bonding together!
Little kids will feel grown up if they are included in the conversation, and this again will help build those all important communication skills. If you are creating a story where each family member adds an idea, this is also a good time to help children with their sequencing and “does it make sense” skills.
If the story you are building is about the family dog, a detail about going to the swim club probably doesn’t belong, unless your dog loves to swim. Talk with your child about why some ideas work and some don’t.
Think of doing this activity at home, too, where you can record or write down the story. Have the kids illustrate each scene.
So, you have to wait a while for the meal to arrive — that’s OK. 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.