Unplug - app-free ways to keep your kids engaged during restaurant dining.

May 08, 2014

Recently I walked by a family having dinner at a restaurant and each of the three children was deeply engaged in an app on their iPad or iPhone. The kids weren't talking to each other. The parent's weren't talking to the kids. Nobody was doing much talking at all actually. It got me thinking... I could swear it was possible to entertain children at a meal before candy crush and angry birds... but how? Here are some easy, screen-free ways to engage your entire family during a meal. They may require a little more attention from you as a parent than handing over your iPhone, but in the end, didn't you bring your kids to the restaurant to be with you, not just next to you? 
1. Doodle & Draw!! Think of all the doors a good pack of crayons or a boogie board tablet can open. From something as simple as coloring books or drawing your family to a game of tick tack toe or hangman, crayons and boogie boards are fun for kids and adults and a great way to get conversations flowing. Try a game of "you'll never guess what I'm drawing" ... you draw, they guess. 
2. Activity Books - word searches, mazes, color by number. If you have more than one child see if they can work cooperatively to complete an activity or if they have similar skills, let them compete to complete an activity first. 
3. Cards - a standard 52 card deck can allow for games like "war" or "higher / lower", requiring little set up and barely any clean up for when those kiddie meals hit the table. 
4. Talk Time - Have each family member pick one thing they want to share or talk about. If your five year old wants to talk about his favorite super hero, ask him questions and encourage him to continue the dialogue. If your nine year old wants to talk about why she thinks it's dumb that she can't use her iPad during dinner, challenge her to become her own app designer and share her likes and dislikes of her favorite apps. Maybe you'll spark her creative side and she'll ask you for those crayons in your purse. 

Carly Seibald is now one of Motherburg's education contributors along with Vanessa. Please see her full bio here!

The founder of Social Sprouts, SLP - a pediatric speech-language pathology practice with an emphasis on teaching social skill development. Carly is a New York State licensed Speech-Language Pathologist and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from ASHA as well as a professional certificate as a Teacher of Students with Speech and Language Disabilities (TSSLD). 

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