Kong Academy | Empowering Kids Through Play

No Screens at the Table

We have a rule in our house: no screens at the table and that includes restaurants.

Resorting to screens when you go out to eat with your kids seems to be a tempting way to “keep the kids quiet”, which might sound like a great idea in the short run. However, it comes at a cost:

You are training your child to turn to screens whenever they are bored and don’t know what to do. This will backfire big times ones they hit the teenage years. It’s hard enough to keep them off screens when they are in middle school. It’ll be so much harder after years of conditioning that screens are the way to be entertained while being in company of other people or whenever you feel bored and can’t think of anything else to do. (Does that sound familiar at all …? How many times do we spend a few minutes on social media that turned out to be half an hour or even longer …!)

I’m sure everyone is aware of the next fact, but I mention it anyway: the negative impact on mental health and brain development if kids spend too much time on screens. And despite Covid and its aftermath, that is still only a max of 2 hours per day.

Lastly, screens can be very isolating. Instead of connecting with your kids, you encourage them to stay in their own world and be disconnected from everyone else. Screens can be all-absorbing, like a black hole … don’t let your kid disappear in them!

It’s hard to find alternatives to screens? Fear not, we have a fun list for you!

1. Take Them to the Park or Playground 🛝

Before heading to the restaurant, take your kids to a nearby park or playground so they can run around, burn some energy, and be ready for some calmer sitting time. This helps them be more focused and engaged during the meal, making it easier for everyone to enjoy the experience.

2. Bring Along Activity Books 📚

Activity books are a great way to keep kids entertained in restaurants. Look for books that contain puzzles, coloring pages, dot-to-dots, and other fun activities that your child can do independently. Not only will this keep them occupied, but it can also help with their cognitive development and fine motor skills. I just Googled “Activity Books for Kids age 6-8” and had 18,200,000 hits. Looks like there’s quite a lot of choice out there!

3. Pack Quiet Toys 🧸 🪁

Toys that can be easily transported and don’t make much noise are a great way to keep kids engaged without disrupting other diners. Small puzzles, building blocks, or fidget toys provide a tactile and sensory experience that can be calming – or at least entertaining – for kids.

4. Encourage Conversation 💬

Going out to eat is a great opportunity to bond with your child and engage them in conversation. Ask them about their day, their interests, or their favorite things. You can also play games like “I Spy” or use the time to get curious and ask questions. To make it easier, we listed some for you:

  • What was the best thing that happened to you today?
  • Who is your favorite superhero or character?
  • What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not in school?
  • What is your favorite book, and why?
  • If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  • What is your favorite food, and why?
  • If you could meet anyone, real of fictional who would it be?
  • What do you think makes a good friend?
  • What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?
  • What is your favorite thing to do with your friends?
  • What are you looking forward to doing this weekend?
  • What is your favorite animal, and why?
  • What is your favorite thing to learn about in school?
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
  • What is your favorite memory?
  • What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you?
  • If you could invent something, what would it be?
  • What do you think you’ll be doing when you grow up?
  • What is your favorite thing to do outside?
  • What are you grateful for today?

5. Let Them Explore 🚀

Encourage your child to explore their surroundings. This can include looking out the window, reading the menu, or observing other diners. Letting them engage with their environment can help them develop a greater appreciation for their surroundings. Top tip: “I spy with my little eye” never gets old!

6. Make it Interactive 😍

Make the dining experience interactive by letting your child help you order or by allowing them to choose what they want to eat. You can also create a game out of learning about the different types of food and which ones your kiddo likes or doesn’t like. You can even take the opportunity and introduce your child to the difference between carbs, fats, and protein and why we need all of them. Here is a quick read if you need a refresher on macronutrients.

7. Take Breaks 🟡⏸️

It’s important to take breaks and give your child time to stretch their legs and move around. Take a walk around the restaurant, let them race up and down the street outside, or play a quick game of Simon Says to get them up and moving.

Summary

Going out to eat with kids ages 6-8 can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to involve screens. By taking them to the park or playground beforehand, bringing along activity books, packing quiet toys, encouraging conversation, letting them explore, making it interactive, and taking breaks, you can create an enjoyable dining experience for both you and your child.

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