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Restaurant Survival Guide for Parents - Tips from tons of experienced momsI may be a hardcore crafter, but I’m also a mom running around like a chicken without a head half the time, especially at restaurants with my kids.  I have two girls, 16 months apart, and I don’t cook.  Hence, we go to a lot of restaurants.  (don’t judge me)  Recently we went to one of our favorite spots (shout out to Poquite Mas) and it was a total disaster.  I mean, kids crying, getting up every second, bothering other people, you know the drill.  And this was before we even ordered our meals!  We stuck it out, but it was not a pleasurable experience by any stretch.  So I did a little research, texted all my friends, asked for help on Facebook and put together a little Restaurant Survival Guide for all of us. I tried to include all the best ideas you can purchase, along with ideas that don’t cost a thing.  If you have any other ideas please share them in the comments.  We’d love to hear them!

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I have to say, the advice came rolling in fast and furious.  So many great ideas from experienced moms who know what’s up.  There were a few things on everyones must have list and then a few really awesome surprise suggestions.  Here’s a list from the experts…aka my mommy friends.  Thanks ladies.  You are amazing!

Restaurant Survival Guide for Parents so you can actually enjoy dining out with your kids - Tips from tons of experienced momsFirst, you’ll need some kind of kit you can leave in your car that holds all your secret weapons.  I’m going with a Frozen Lunch Box for each of my girls.  I think it’s a good idea for each child to have their own bag of tricks, though my friend with three girls, just relies on one simple backpack with everything in it.

*NOTE* Before I get into all the suggestions, one thing that seems to be essential, is that whatever you have in your survival kit needs to live only in your car so it’s fresh and new to your kids for the restaurant.  If they just played with it at home they may not be as into it when your server is slammed and it seems to be taking ages just to get your water.  I was a waitress, so I know how that goes.  We need to be prepared mamas! Slangin tacos ain’t easy.

Restaurant Survival Guide for Parents so you can actually enjoy dining out with your kids - Tips from tons of experienced moms

1.  Black Magic Scratch Art

This is going in my kit for sure.  I learned about these babies from The Artful Parent and they are so awesome.  I know my girls will love them.  Again, they will not be an option any other time than in the restaurants so they are super psyched to use them.  I can’t wait to use them either.

2.  A Kid Friendly Video Camera

Yup, this was one of my favorite suggestions.  It’s pricey, I know, but awesome and would make a great birthday present.  I just put in a family request for my girls. My girlfriend keeps this Fisher Price Video Camera  in her car in a backpack and never forgets it for a restaurant outing.  Her kids just make videos the whole time they are waiting for their meals.  So clever.  My girls will love this for sure.

3. Wikki Stix or Modeling Beeswax

Another friend told me she has a few friends who swear by crafty no mess Wikki Stix to keep their kids busy pre and post dinner time.  Then, a reader told me about Modeling Beeswax that is completely hygienic and doesn’t smear or crumble, making it awesome for kids waiting to get their mac n cheese on.  (I mean their salmon and veggies)

4.  Wind Up Toys

I love this idea because I think it would really entertain kids for a while and they come in so many characters so whatever your child is into would be great to have on hand.  I found these ballerina ones! So cute.

5.  Crayons or Markers

Ok, this is an easy one.  Most restaurants even have them on hand if they are kid friendly, but it’s certainly easy enough to throw a little box of crayons into your kit.  If you want to get fancy, try these crayons or these markers, if your kids are a little older.  My first graders couldn’t get enough of them when I taught elementary school.

Restaurant Survival Guide for Parents - Tips from tons of experienced moms6.  Imagine Ink books

My amazing mother in law introduced us to these Imagine Ink books where the color only shows up with this clear marker you use over the entire picture.  My almost four year old devours them so I’m going to start packing them in our kits.  Coloring books were also super popular.  If your kids are into Doc McStuffins, get a Doc McStuffins Coloring Book.  If they are into cars, get a Cars one.  Whatever the interest, there is likely a coloring book to match.

7.  Cars

My girls aren’t into cars, but I’m guessing there are some mamas out there who have hardcore car lovers in their crew.  Try a few new matchbox cars in your kit.  That seems to be a sure thing.

8. Magiclip Dolls

Ok, I know I’ve mentioned Frozen stuff a few times, but the truth is, little girls freaking love Elsa and Anna and I ain’t mad at the movie.  I think the themes and characters are great.  Plus, I went to a party once where a little girl brought a lunch box full of these dolls and the kids were entertained for like two hours.  It was amazing.

9.  Plus Plus Design Pieces

These were confirmed to be awesome by several people and for many ages starting around 3.  Another mom of three said she never goes to a restaurant without them.  I’m in!

10.  Small Book Box Sets or Any Favorite Books

I thought the little book set was a really good suggestion and something easy you can throw in your purse or kit.  We have  this set that’s super cute and my girls really like it.  They are also hardcore into Beautiful Oops right now, which is nice and small, and Lines That Wiggle, but that one would only fit in a backpack.

11. Scribble Journals

Ok, these journals are super cool! My friend Agnes at Hello, Wonderful told me about them.  Her kids love them. My girls are really into little books and cards they can draw in.  Another somewhat similar idea is to put some blank index cards and envelopes in your kit and make cards for friends and family.  We’ve been doing this lately at home and it’s really fun.

Restaurant Survival Guide for Parents so you can actually enjoy dining out with your kids - Tips from tons of experienced momsNot a problem, here’s a list of games and activities you can do on the fly and all you need is a little imagination.

1.  Play “Tic Tac Toe”

Use forks or knives to make a board and the sugar packets can be the x’s and o’s.

2.  Play “Eye Spy”

Eye spy with my little eye a server bringing our food.  HOORAY!

3.  Play “Makes Me Think Of”

My friend, mom of three, and superstar blogger at Art Bar told me about this one.  You start with a word and add “makes me think of…”  So, “Marshmallows make me think of chocolate milk.”  The next person says “Chocolate milk makes me think of…camp.”  The next person “Camp makes me think of friendship.” And so on.  A few rounds and dinner is served.

4.  Play “Finish My Story”

Basically one person starts a sentence or two of a story and then each person at the table adds a little to it until you get to the end.  We did this when I taught kindergarten and all the kids loved it.

5.  Ok, I’m going to say the thing that no mother is supposed to say.

When all else fails, give em your iPhone.

Happy dining everyone! I hope this is helpful.  I will be making my Restaurant Survival Kits this weekend.  Poquito Mas, here we come!

Restaurant Survival Guide for Parents - Tips from tons of experienced moms

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