Between getting a table, ordering, and the arrival of food, waiting can take up a large proportion of the time that your family is at a restaurant. If you can make that down time fun, it will go a long way toward making eating out a pleasant experience for the night. Here are some ideas to pass the time:
1. Ask for lemons with your water and let your kids make themselves lemonade using a couple packets of splenda on the table. They can experiment with different levels of sourness and sweetness. Ask them if they can figure out the part of their tongue that senses sourness.
2. Play hangman.
3. Have each person guess what letter your server’s name will start with. Each person could also guess a name to go with their letter. Wouldn’t it be fun if they were right some time?
4. Play “Squares.” Here are some good directions for the game. My mother used to play this with us all the time when we were little!
5. Get a copy of the game Password, and always keep a decoder and a few cards in your purse for times like these.
6. Play “If I were a _______ I’d order...” Have the kids discuss what they would order on the menu if they were a bear or a squirrel or a monster, etc.
7. Bring a deck of cards and play a card game. Rummy is particularly good for this situation because it requires very little table space; it is flexible as to number of players, and the rounds are short.
8. Have fun imagining with your children what it would be like if you were accidentally locked in the restaurant after it closed and had to spend the night there. Discuss what you would want to play with, where would be good hiding places for hide-and- go- seek and where you would like to sleep.
9. Keep a small book of trivia questions in your purse.
10. Pick out a book of short stories that your family will plan to read from aloud whenever you go to restaurants or have a long road trip.
11. Play Pictionary. Even if you don’t have any cards from the game with you, it is easy enough for one person to think of a word and whisper it to another person for him to draw while everyone else tries to guess. It’s harder to make it a fair competition that way, but it will still be fun!
12. Instruct your kids that they are to imagine themselves to be two inches tall with the powers to run, jump, and climb like video game characters. Tell them to watch themselves in their imagination exploring the restaurant in their tiny state. Whenever they get themselves into a predicament (fall into a bowl of soup, find themselves on a ledge they can’t get off of, etc. ) they are to tell the others who must then come up with a plan to rescue the tiny person in crisis. (This idea comes from my husband who admits that he sometimes still imagines himself tiny and watches himself run around the room when he is stuck in a boring situation! :-)
13. Have your kids draw imaginary hybrids of animals. For example, you could tell them to draw a mix between a leopard and a praying mantis. See what you get!