34 answers

Need Ideas for Stuff to Keep a 1 Year Old Busy When We're at a Restaurant

My little one is super active, and when we go out with our friends for dinner, he gets bored QUICKLY. I'd like to put together a "kit" of things to bring with us so he doesn't dissolve into a fit before we get to eat. Dinner only keeps him happy for so long, then he wants down and out!

What do you other moms do with kiddos this age? He's a little too little to color - he just wants to chew on the crayon.

2 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

a little doodle board really entertained my daughter then (and still). A feather was fun for her too, just had to keep it out of her mouth.

My daughter is 19 months and I still have that problem. At first I brought some of her favorite toys. After a while she got bored. then the only way to keep her quiet and not want to was to give her things that I wouldn't normally let her have like my cell phone, and my silverware. I've just come to the conclusion that when I can preorder my food i do so that way we arent waiting near as long. Or even sometimes just go in and get the food to go and eat at home. It kinda of sucks at this point but I dont want to spoil her now and have her get use to things now, and when shes older try to teach something different, shes already spoiled enough as it is. I want her to have manners when we go out and not be a holy terror.

With my first 2, my favorite thing was frozen bananna in one of those mesh feeding bags. You have to attach it to the high chair so that when they drop it it doesn't get on the floor, but it would keep them busy for a while...something to eat, but it took a while to eat it all. With this last one, he seems pretty happy to talk to us and look around. I do let him sit in my lap until the food arrives, and I do let him try to color (yes, he eats the crayons sometimes, but he has fun trying).

More Answers

I disagree with not taking your chidren out. Sure you will have to figure out which restaurants are more "kid friendly" and only frequent those, but if you never subject your kids to that environment, then it will (in my opinion) be harder for them to learn how to act in a restaurant. We loved (and still do, he's almost 3 now) the travel Aquadoodle. Since it's only filled with water, there is no need to worry about them putting it in their mouth and when one side gets fully they can "color" the other side, then switch. We have an activity bag for anytime we're out and he needs to play quietly (restaurants, church, etc.). It also has age appropriate snacks, books to look at/read, one of those reusable sticker books, crayons & coloring book, and some cars. However, there will always be those times when nothing works and you will be forced to walk around with them!

3 moms found this helpful

The best things for everyone concerned is to find a sitter for your youngster. No 13 mo. old is "good company" in a restaurant setting! THere is really no other answer!

Gradually take him to places where you are in and out in 30 minutes...coffee, coke, dessert, etc. MAYBE by the time he is 5, he will know the ropes of dining out!

SORRY! I've been there!

2 moms found this helpful

Every child is different. What you don't want to do is set your child or yourself up for a failure. Nobody wins. It's best to get a baby sitter or bring in, but If you MUST take him then understand and be prepared to take turns with your husband walking him around outside. He is too young to expect him to sit quietly.

1 mom found this helpful

We rarely went to restaurants when my older 2 boys were really little for this reason. Unless we knew there would not be a wait and the food didn't take long to get out. But having some toys did help once they got a little older. My oldest could care less about coloring until he was school age but he would play with trains or cars at the table.

Hi J.,
I have to agree with the others that said they just didn't eat out with a one year old. Maybe just making time to meet your girlfriends for dinner out by yourself would be the best bet now. Getting out a bit by yourself is good for you anyway.
Just my two cents,
R.

I 2nd the portable dvd player but recommend buying it from Sam's or Costco. They provide A. relatively cheap instore warranty that if the player breaks for ANY REASON (even if our darling chucks it out the car window) they will replace or repair on site. I tried buying cheaper dvd players and ending up buying several b/c my ds kept wanting to play with the buttons and breaking them. Buying a good one upfront with a warranty it will save you alot of headache. Good luck on whatever you choose to do!!

With my first 2, my favorite thing was frozen bananna in one of those mesh feeding bags. You have to attach it to the high chair so that when they drop it it doesn't get on the floor, but it would keep them busy for a while...something to eat, but it took a while to eat it all. With this last one, he seems pretty happy to talk to us and look around. I do let him sit in my lap until the food arrives, and I do let him try to color (yes, he eats the crayons sometimes, but he has fun trying).

Going out to eat with a one year for us was always a recipe for disaster. We learned to get in, order immediately and take care of the bill while we were still eating. It was never a leisurely affair at all. I can remember many a stressful evening with my in-laws who didn't have kids and not understanding why we needed to go somewhere without a wait and be so efficient in eating. There was no ordering dessert or chatting with our young ones. (I kind of smile now that we have older kids who will sit but they now have the toddlers!) Anyway, for the time we were there, my son liked munching on cheerios or little snacks. We also had this little winnie the pooh suction cup toy that stuck on the table he'd bat at and suck on. Some books or even a small photo album of family photos worked too. As he gets older, things like a magna doodle or etch-n-sketch would be good. Even pipe cleaners can provide entertainment with a young kid. WIth my younger son who was much more active, we got a seat in a booth where he could move around a bit more. We'd seat him next to the wall with one of us on the outside. He did better there than in a high chair, especially if it had a mirror or window next to that seat. Good luck! I don't miss those days! :)

J.,

Take the night off and get a sitter for your little guy. You will both have more fun! I found a great one on sittercity.com.

Good luck!

Order in. lol. We never went. It always seemed like too much work to enjoy a dinner out. Now, they are 3 & 5 we can go. They enjoy watching everything.

I found some puzzles at Learning Express and Toy R Us that have moving pieces on them, my daughter loves them! The pieces are not removable so you don't have to worry about them going in the mouth. It just has little cars, motorcycle and such that you can pull around on a track on the puzzle. (I don't know if I am explaining that well)You could even by the pegged puzzle pieces with the animals and such, they help with dexterity and the pieces are fun to play with even if he can't put it together himself. =)

I've never tried it out and about but it sure works at home. Try taking some little kids plates, bowls, and platic food to keep little one busy.

We use a portable dvd player(very inexpensive) and pack a crayola wonders set so she can color.

Hi,
I agree with the other moms who said to go somewhere fast and kid-friendly. For us, this is usually a pho place (Vietnamese noodles). We usually get seated right away, we don't order appetziers because the main course comes out pretty quickly. If you go to a regular restaurant, just get the main course and get out of there. It seems when we order appetizers, the waiters get more leisurely with their service. If you want to hang with your friends after dinner, take the kid to a park and you can chat with your friends. If we are eating with other friends with kids, we prefer to eat at home so the kids can run off and play while the adults eat.
M. (DS 3yrs old)

Color Wonder Markers are the best!!!!!! They didn't have the portable Aquadoodles when my kids were little, but that sounds great! We also love the portable Leapsters! Your son might be a little young yet for that, but it might be something good for the future. It's like a portable video player but it's all about learning. My kids still love them. Play-Doh is great!, magnetic puzzles, those thing..oh what are they called...magna doodle I think? Stickers or bandaids like one person said. Just keep a bag together for trips like these and don't bring it out until you go out. That way it will be a treat when you do go out.

My only suggestion is a babysitter or a crockpot and invite them over to your house for dinner. For me, going out to eat with toddlers is just not worth it at all. I hate paying that much for food just to have to hurry and eat or not really enjoy it because I'm busy trying to keep them occupied, etc. We ONLY take them to VERY kid friendly places and even then it can be hard so we only do it every other month or so and then I remember why I don't do it more often! It won't be much longer until they are older and more easily entertained and we're able to take them to more places...that's what I keep telling myself! In the meantime I have a GREAT babysitter who doesn't charge much and for me it's worth the extra $10-15 to leave them at home...

J.,

It's never too early to start getting your baby used to crowds. ALso, half the fun of having a little one is showing them off!! :-)

I used to bring my girls finger foods. We sorted their peas and carrots (a staple that my girls loved),counted the "RollyPolly PEAS". They liked to string Fruit Loops on strings and bite them off. You could bring along Lucky CHarms and sort them too! And, they loved to chew on the "leaves" off little broccoli "trees"... Dip Cauliflower in dressing, and munch on the other fresh veggies at the Salad Bar. If I doled their finger foods out a little at a time I usually managed to keep my girls busy until our meal was on the table. Then I gave them bites of my food to keep them busy.

I'm thinking and throwing out random thoughts here... so bear with me.... It's been 17years since I traveled/ate out with a 1year old... LOL...

But: I also remember taking along a shape sorter toy and other puzzler type toys that were small and toteable. Try hiding his finger foods under things like a shell game. I used little tupperware cups. Stacking cups work pretty good too. First, hide the goodies. Then as he finds the treat, he stacks the cups. They make little busy-bead toys that would work GREAT for a long time. The trick is to ONLY take these toys out to eat or maybe Church... That way they stay fresh and he doesn't get bored with them.

I also bought my daughter's Fiance's baby a fun toy for her 1st birthday in July that keeps her pretty busy for 15 - 30 minutes at a time... It's a catepillar that sings nursery rhymes. His wings are the pages of a book. It's not too loud or obnoxious that it would disturb others, but she really likes it.

Good Luck!

T.

You got a lot of good ideas that I am going to use myself. I really liked the plastic box idea with letting the child decorate it at the restaurant and the aqua doodle idea.

My daughter LOVES bandaids - I keep a box of them in her bag at all times. She will spend lots of time opening them and lining her legs/arms with them! seems silly but keeps her entertained.

also - i disagree with ordering the childs food right away. i find that if we do that by the time our food comes my lil one is going stir crazy and then i don't get to eat. i like our food to come at the same time so we are both eating at the same time. i would rather help entertain her prior to food which i can do while still socializing then we all eat together.

Always a good idea to have items on hand for the little one at a restaurant!! What i found helped at that age was buying a lot of stickers and my son would sit there quietly peeling stickers off of the sheet and putting them into his "sticker book" (a small spiral notebook with bright graphics on the covers); also had crayons handy for when he wanted to color in his sticker book. Now that he's almost 4 years old (and grown out of his sticker book phase), we carry around small trucks, diggers and other misc. items that fit into his bag to keep him busy...along with a few travel snacks just in case it takes a long while to get our food! :-)

Good Morning!! You've gotten some very good advice. My daughter is now 6 and we still do this. We have what we call the "toy packpack". We started it when she was old enough to sit up in the high chairs. We took age approiate (sp??) toys, books, coloring books and crayons. Yes, at times she'd try to eat them, but they have to learn somehow. Yes, at times, I had to pay more attention to her than my friends/family or food, but now she can sit through the entire meal at resturants with no problems. We would also put her in out laps to help her color until she was old enough to do it on her own. Also, take extra snacks and drinks that he can do on his own. We also ordered her food ASAP.

We never allowed her to run around the places we went. My brother's kids did that and drove me nuts. Anyway. It's tough keeping them busy and in the chair. Sometimes we'd take her outside and run with her up & down the sidewalk a few times espically if you're with a large group of friends or family, but for never more than 5 minutes at such a young age. Sorry this is so long. I feel your "pain" very much. Good Luck!!

OH!! Our rule for the backpack: If it fits in the backpack, you can take it. Never more than 5 toys/books if we're going to a resturante.

Put together a restaurant kit, by getting a plastic box with a hinged lid that has a handle (wal mart or joann's). You can get some color wonder markers that only color on the special paper, a small etch a sketch, stickers, magnetic games, match box cars, and snacks like goldfish. Once you start looking, you'll find tons of good ideas--try Dollar Tree or Target's dollar spot. Keep these goodies in the kit--and it's only used at restaurants. OH, and the first time you use it, let HIM decorate the outside with stickers during your meal. :)

A portable DVD player works wonders. Also, we will often put in the order for our twins as soon as we sit down and then figure out what we want. That way we can feed them and then let them watch a show while we eat. It makes for less cold dinners for me. =)

a little doodle board really entertained my daughter then (and still). A feather was fun for her too, just had to keep it out of her mouth.

My daughter is 19 months and I still have that problem. At first I brought some of her favorite toys. After a while she got bored. then the only way to keep her quiet and not want to was to give her things that I wouldn't normally let her have like my cell phone, and my silverware. I've just come to the conclusion that when I can preorder my food i do so that way we arent waiting near as long. Or even sometimes just go in and get the food to go and eat at home. It kinda of sucks at this point but I dont want to spoil her now and have her get use to things now, and when shes older try to teach something different, shes already spoiled enough as it is. I want her to have manners when we go out and not be a holy terror.

Hi J. I really liked Countneys advice I have a 18 mon. old who is also known for his activity!!
He is getting better than he was at one!
One thing that helps us when we need to sit is I got him some smaller little farm animals and he sets then up and knocks them down talks about them what sounds they make etc!
It has been the best thing so far that I have bought to entertain him at a restaurant.
We still go out with friends even though we get embarassed sometimes we would rather try than leave him all the time.
By the way I bought them at Joanns fabrics super store!

We have a little box we take with us to restaurants. It has some stickers, small playdough container, flash cards, small bubble container, chalk and chalkmat(made out of chalkboard fabric), finger puppets, and a bunch of tiny sized toys (found at the learning express in bins). We only pull this out at restaurants in order to try to keep her interest. We also pack snacks like goldfish and cheerios to take with us until the food comes out. It's not easy, but this helps.

We have a "Resturant" bag. This bag stays in the car so that we always have it and it's filled with toys that were bought only for this bag. This way the toys seem new and keep the kids attention. This has saved us in many resturants. Hope it helps!

The Thomas the Train toys with the magnetic ends, provide a lot of fun at the table, when you take a metal spoon and "drive" the train around the table with it.
Also, I bought a cute crayon carrier that has paper and crayons in it. It is a folio with a pad of paper and space to hold crayons. I always keep stickers in there as well. Stickers and crayons will help when he is a little bit older. A portable dvd player can give you 20 - 30 minutes of time in a restaurant. It is not easy, but I agree that taking your little one out is great. You just have to be patient and ready to pack up and leave if necessary, but it teaches table manners early!

how about a portable dvd player?

I would suggest getting a babysitter if you want a dinner out with friends unless they have a child close to the same age or you go to a kid friendly place. A one year old can only sit for a short time when you are out to eat. Anything longer than 45 minutes is unreasonable to ask of a child that young. To occupy his time during that time, you could bring a small container of playdough, crayons and paper, a few favorite small toys, books. Your going to have to entertain him though. Most 13 month olds don't like to play alone. I would, also, suggest a booth, so he can move around, but still be contained easily. Good luck!

Please, do everyone a favor and leave your little man with a sitter. You have another one due in January....you deserve a break, even if it's only for a few hours. Papa will thank you TOO!

He's going to be much happier at home, trust me, and the patrons at the restaurant will be happier that you left him home.

I'm sure he's precious, but at 13 months old, there is just not a lot you can do to occupy him for a sit-down meal.

Coloring books and crayons are good, and some small books. But you'll need to be engaged with your son in these activities. We bought these eco-friendly disposable coloring placemats, and triangle shaped crayons (because they don't roll off the table). And small toys, but nothing that makes loud noises that may irritate other diners. We also learned to have a "new" toy for a restaurant or outing, since the attention span is usually a little longer for new things/experiences.

I also find that going to eat earlier is good, so there is little or no wait time for a table. The longer you have to wait to be seated, the more likely your son is going to have less patience at the table. My husband eats faster than me, so often he would take our kids outside to stretch their legs while I finished eating.

I don't actually recommend ordering his food right away. Because then he is finished before you and while you're still trying to eat he'll probably start getting really impatient and you find yourself rushing out to avoid a meltdown but then not getting to finish your meal! I find it easier to enterain my little before the meal comes, then she eats with the rest of us and we're all ready to leave at the same time.

And just know that his behavior is normal and you'll just have to accept that. Is he walking now, or on the verge? Then you have to see it from his point -- he is happy to be so mobile now, and so sitting at a table for any length of time is not what he wants to do right now. Sure, it's frustrating for adults who just want to sit and have a nice meal and talk with friends. But it is all part of parenting. As he gets older and his attention span lengthens, so too will his patience for sitting through meals. It's a work in progress.

My eldest daughter (now 14) was a well-behaved child. But when she starting walking at 13 months, she became very difficult when we would go out to eat. But after a few months she settled down again. My youngest is now 2 1/2 and she now enjoys the restaurant experience, but a year ago it was a much different story.

Well, I wouldn't plan on a long evening out to dinner with friends with a one year old. It gets better as they can sit longer - around two. I have a one year old and 2 1/2 year old. However, at one I would bring healthy snacks that they can chew on after dinner. I make up games at the table with the salt packs like counting them and putting them in a pile. I bring books to point out pictures and read. We walk around the restaraunt looking at things. I make sure we go to "kid friendly" restaraunt with lots of activity for her to look around - people watch. Unfortunately, you will need to designate one person to keep your baby occupied as they really can't entertain themselves really well right now. However, it is good you are bringing them to a restaraunt so they learn how to behave. We took my older daughter out a lot at a young age and she is very well behaved now at restaraunts. She is only 2 1/2 and I always get compliments on her behavior. Good luck!

It is *so* hard to take a 1 year old to a restaurant. We just went to family friendly places, usually with buffets... at least somewhere where we could get our food quickly and let the baby eat off of the buffet any finger foods (like peas). Things that he could feed himself.

This usually resulted in a huge mess on the floor/table, but we left an extra large tip to compensate.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.