A few weeks ago, my family and I walked into a pizza and Italian restaurant for our after-swim lessons dinner choice. The restaurant received good reviews on various websites so we thought we would give a try. As we were waiting to get seated, I noticed not one but two signs adjacent to each other asking parents to make sure that they keep an eye on their children. It also said that restaurant employees would have to the right to ask you to leave if your children were a bit too rowdy.
As I looked around the restaurant I noticed there were no other children. The waitress come over and asked me how many. I politely said we had changed our minds, and we left. My kids are still at an age where we could have a meltdown at any minute, so my anxiety shot through the roof reading those two signs. As moms, we don’t handle it well when someone accuses us of “bad parenting.” Momma bear comes out and we either verbally get defensive or if you don’t like confrontation, leave with a huge sense of guilt and anger.
After this restaurant sign thing, it had me thinking. Why do my kids have meltdowns in restaurants? What can I do to be proactive instead of reactive? I found myself in the good old dollar store again. There is half an aisle dedicated to grab and go activities. Coloring books, re-positioning stickers, portable paints, character packets with crayons and stickers, reading books, math books, and the list goes on. I made sure to grab two of everything that I wanted the kids to try out. I have two girls and they will argue over having the same activity to play, just like they do with toys. Buying two of everything makes sure that we don’t have a meltdown or fight at the restaurant. The dollar bins at Target are filled with great activities to keep the kids occupied too.
I purchased about $30 of various activities and put them in our travel backpack. Our family keeps a travel backpack in the car filled with activities, a change of clothes, and sweaters. The first time we brought the backpack into the restaurant with us the kids picked their activity and they were occupied until their food came. The next week we did again. The kids each picked their activity and stayed occupied until their food came. No more meltdowns or asking when is the food coming.
It has been about six weeks now since I started bringing activities with us to restaurants. I am so happy that we haven’t held a meltdown in a restaurant since the beginning of August. The kids now get excited to have something to do besides what the restaurant gives them to color. They work on their projects until the food comes, they eat, and then they finish their activity. I feel very confident going back to that restaurant with the two “watch your children” signs knowing that my family would not be asked to leave due to a meltdown.
P.S. We also take these various activities with us to other places to keep the kids occupied such as the football game, long car rides, waiting in lines at amusement parks, hotel rooms, and the waiting rooms at various places.