Going out to eat with children can be stressful to say the least. We’ve actually had times where we decided not to go eat somewhere because we didn’t want to have to figure out how to keep her occupied in a 5×4 box of hell!
We’ve used the phone and books and toys. The phone always works if we need adult time – real conversation without interruption. But now with #2 here, the idea of a peaceful meal with the kids is completely out the window … AND I prefer to keep screen time to a minimum if possible.
So I’ve come up with a new strategy that seems to work great, at least for 30 minutes or so.
I call them napkin adventures.
- Take a napkin and unfold it. Preferably a paper one depending on how much you want to piss the restaurant off (and if you’re going to a cloth napkin restaurant with kids, you’ve got your shit together and probably don’t need this…or else you’re just crazy and don’t need this either.)
- Begin in the lower left hand corner with a pen and let your imagination go where a child’s would go with your kids. I prefer to go the route of “once up on a time there was a little girl named Rowan who decided to take a walk in the woods.” This is when I take my pen and draw a stick figure and some lame trees and a curvy road.
- Next I ask my kid, “then what happened?” And she tells me and we draw it. At every intersection I ask the same question: “then what happened”. The key is to draw terribly and dramatically while making exaggerated faces and listening with intense enthusiasm!
Then you’re pretty much it in. You follow the napkin as far as it can go with the story.
Then you switch roles.
Child becomes the artist and mom or dad becomes the story teller.
This sounds lame, but how many of you have kids that play with the cardboard box rather than the toy inside? Same concept.
Simple + enthusiasm + engagement = happy child.
Today we had an encounter with a monster pig who ate our whole family then barfed us back up because Isla was sad and then somehow we all ended up in a hot air balloon stuck to a cloud full of lollipops…go figure, tough luck I guess?
Let me know when you try this how it works! It’s been a gem for us lately!