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How I Take 3 Young Kids To A Restaurant Without All Hell Breaking Loose

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What are some activities you can do with kids while waiting at a restaurant?

Recently, I was out with my kids (6, 5, and 3 years old) at the mall and we decided to have a sit-down meal at California Pizza Kitchen. Luckily, my wife and I have created some easy rules in order to make sure our kids are (relatively) well-behaved any time we eat out as a family.

1. Have Some “Restaurant Rules”
Before entering, we covered our “Restaurant Rules” — No pushing, yelling, or shooting paper off of the straws, and then we’ll order dessert. (Or something to that general effect.)

2. Don’t Go Anywhere That Doesn’t Have Crayons Available
They were incredibly busy. We were seated right away, but things were pretty backed up. Thank God they give us crayons and handy-dandy menus with connect-the-dots, mazes, and other things to color that captured the kids’ undivided attention.


3 .Have A Question And Answer Game Ready To Go
While waiting for our food, and running low on activities on the kid menu, we played a Question & Answer game. The question to the kids: “What are the first 5 rides you want to go on the next time we go to Disneyland?” This is my favorite — they are excited about their answers, we (sort of) get to practice taking turns, and my kids could be asked this question every hour, on the hour, and they’d still be excited to tell you their answers.

4. Be Ready To Get Creative
After a round of lemonades, and some french bread, there was the usual bathroom break (nothing short of an Everest Expedition if you’re traveling with 3 kids at a restaurant) — and then we started to reach the yellow light stage. You know, when tired and hungry kids start to look at you like you’re a prison guard holding them captive for too long.

So we decided to keep with the Disneyland trend. I pulled out what was left of one of the kid menus and drew a map. Not just any map, but a Disneyland map. My kids love two things: Disneyland and Treasure Maps. I asked them:”If this is where Main Street is, and this is where the Castle is, then where on this map is Thunder Mountain Railroad?”

By the time our pizzas showed up, the kids were so engrossed in the map game that it didn’t even register that it was time to eat.


All in all, this could have easily been avoided with 3 iPads, or a movie in the car and a drive-thru dinner. But I think, as a parent, the easy way out is the path to regret. All of those Easy Button bailouts will wash together, every hour on the iPad cone of silence will merge into the other — and you’ll wonder where the time went.

We got to have dinner together. It took hard work, and some creative conversation, but we did it… and they all got their dessert.


Chris Lynam is a father of 3, and the creator of #DADventure. He writes about parenting, relationships, and fitness. You can read more from Quora here: