Toddler Restaurant Toys

Travelling, Messy Play, Parenting, Parenting Tips

The Best Screen-Free Toddler Toys for Restaurants

 If you’ve ever had to wait for a table at a crowded eatery with an active child, you know how important it is to keep them occupied during their meal. And if you’re like me, you try to limit screen time. Keeping a toddler busy at a restaurant table brings many challenges. 

Here are our favorite toddler restaurant toys:

  1. Coloring books
  2. Board books
  3. Flap book
  4. Activity books
  5. Reusable sticker books
  6. Magnetic blocks
  7. Wooden blocks
  8. Matching game
  9. Animal figures

My first daughter was always good at restaurants; however, my second daughter is a whole different story!

Two young kids at a table is a whole new game. Sometimes there have been rough moments when I’ve had to resort use a screen. 5-10 minutes of screen time to avoid toddler tantrums, engage in adult conversation and giving you time to enjoy your restaurant meal is an easy trade-off.

So, I’ve been keeping some toys and things just for restaurants and long trips. They’re stored in a box near the front door.

Packing for an overnight trip by throwing some stuff into the car before leaving the house. I usually pack something different each time I go somewhere.

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With children at home, what are the challenges of eating out with them?

Wait times

As grownups, we tend to get frustrated when things take too long, so expecting toddlers to be patient in similar situations isn’t reasonable.

Sometimes even waiting for the check to arrive can be stressful. It’s best to prepare ahead of time.

Noise (sensory issues)

Crowded, noisy restaurants can often be distracting and overwhelming. Loud noises, flashing lights, and strong odors can cause sensory overstimulation.

It’s common for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to experience sensory overload. But it can happen to anyone.

Boredom

Boredom can be good for kids but when they’re bored at restaurants, they’re asking for troubles.

It is not fun sitting in a chair, waiting for something to happen when you’re a young kid.

Is all this worth all the effort?

It can be stressful when going out for dinner with children, but eating together at home is extremely important.

Researchers at the University of Montreal found out that kids from homes where parents eat dinner together are more likely to be healthier than kids from homes where parents don’t eat dinner together. Read more about that study here!

However, that’s just one research paper, there are countless others showing the short and long term health and educational advantages of family dinners.

It promotes early speech and language development for children, as well as encouraging them to eat healthier foods.

Read this article from Fitness Blenders for some evidence that eating together regularly has positive effects on families.

Eating out at restaurants helps teach kids social and math lessons. It also gives them exposure to new foods and different cultures. Involving them in paying for meals lets them learn basic arithmetic.

We want to help families enjoy their meals together by making them easier to prepare.

Here are some things to keep in mind when eating out with children.

  • If you’re bringing something for yourself, bring some light snack foods just in the event that the food takes longer than anticipated and you have a hungry child.
  • Bring noise blocking earphones. When you’re in a noisy place and have a kid who has sensory overload.
  • If you want to bring something to do, see our toys for list below.
  • When ordering kids’ meals, get their food orders in as quickly as possible so they don’t have to wait for long periods of times. Or, if you’re not sure whether they want an entree or side dish, just ask them what they’d like.
  • If they’re not kid friendly, don’t go there. They could be hiding something.

The Top 15 Toddler Toys For Restaurants

2. Crayola DryErase Travel Pack

My kids both enjoy playing with these blocks, which keep them occupied for a while and encourage their creativity and fine muscle coordination.

2. Magnetic Building Blocks

For example, Magna-Quibis (the cube versions of MagnaTiles), which come in a small metal container, or Tegu blocks, which come in an egg carton. We keep ours in a small metal container so we can take them out when we’re eating at a restaurant.

3. Travel Magna Doodle

It’s always good to start off with something classic.

4. Reusable Stickers

You can use regular stickers and regular pieces of construction cardboard for regular sticker sheets if your kid likes them there.

5. Plus Plus Blocks

These are really cool connectors. They’re available in two different sizes and there are many different sets. Perfect for children who are in the building schema.

6. Magnetic Tangram Puzzle

It’s a great STEM activity for building your math skills and practicing spatial awareness.

Crayola Color Wonder markers.

They’re ideal for kids who enjoy drawing things from scratch. Blank sheets can be used to encourage them to create their own artwork.

8. Scavenger Hunt

They’re small and perfect for traveling, or if you want to be really creative, you could come up with your own restaurant themed games.

9. Water Drawing Pad

You can choose between a set of colored pencils or a blank drawing pad.

10. Wood Lacing Toys

A fun fine-mouthing activity.

11. Squigz

They’re really fun for everyone.

1.12. Jumbo Nuts & Bolts

This Montessori-themed nut and bolt toy is the perfect travel size. Find more Montessori-themed products at this link.

13. Tic Tac Toe

My daughter loves playing with these blocks. She puts them together to create different shapes.

14. Scratch Sheets

An enjoyable art project that can be good for younger children too.

15. Guest Check Pads

My three-and-a-half-years old is really into pretend playing at the moment, so a friend got her this set from eeboo which includes menus and a tablet to take orders. However, you can also buy these “guests” check pads to use for pretend playing.

You can teach your children to order at restaurants by using them to practice and model good table manners.

These toys are not just fun and entertaining; they’re educational too! They’re perfect for kids’ parties, birthday celebrations, and any special occasion where people want to have some fun together.

They help children learn new things, solve problems, and improve their fine motor skills and spatial abilities.

Hopefully, this guide will help you enjoy eating out with your children. If you have any more cool ideas for us, please let us know!

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