Bringing Toys to Restaurants, Church--What Age?

Updated on May 16, 2011
V.T. asks from McKinney, TX
22 answers

What age do you stop letting your kids bring toys or entertainment to restaurants and church? I just read a post about what to bring for a 1 year old, and it got me thinking. My daughter is 2 and we still bring entertainment for her when we go out, but I get so upset when I see older kids bringing entertainment to restaurants and church. These kids are clearly old enough to behave and pay attention at church or dinner. Am I being unrealistic to think that when my daughter is 5 or 6 that she will be able to sit for an hour in church or be an active part of dinner at a restaurant?

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answers from Phoenix on

my kids are 5 & 6 and we still bring some coloring stuff if the restaraunt does not have it and we also bring my son some mazes, he's not one for coloring. Although, we do not do the electronic devices.

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answers from Tulsa on

Thanks to everyone who takes things to entertain the kids when I am sitting next to you in a restaurant. It is a treat for our family to go out to eat and I can't stand a kid climbing on the chair, yelling, flicking food, etc...

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

I think each child is different....some are ready to sit and pay attention or be involved at a meal at the age of 4 or 5 but some are not.
As far as church is concerned I do not think that most church services are geared towards the younger set. They can enjoy the music, learn to bow their heads and close their eyes during prayer...but the sermon is just WAY over their heads for the most part!!! Our church has what we call "childrens church"...after the musical section of the service is over...and right before the sermon starts, the younger children..through the 3rd grade, I think...are dismissed to go to a special time of their own. They play games, do crafts, learn basic bible truths etc.
I think you can take things gradually...a step at a time...not just suddenly expect them to be participants in adult situations. I can still remember, as a pre-teen...checking a book out of the church library and read it from cover to cover during the church service. I never had a problem with my children bringing along something to entertain themselves with...if the conversation was interesting to them...they took part..if not...they colored or read or whatever they had to entertain themselves with.
Relax...let your child be your guide.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

As long as it's not an electronic that will deter my DD from interacting with us, I will bring "entertainment" for as long as we need to. Normally she is good with the crayons & paper given by the restaurant. She is 5 now, btw. The "entertainment" doesn't prevent her from being an active part of dinner.

It has nothing to do with behavior, it has to do with boredom & a small attention span. No kid is going to sit for an hour plus & not move & not complain if they have nothing to do. Not to mention, an occupied kid is a happy kid, and a quiet kid. If you are at a restaurant, the last thing the other patrons want to listen to is your bored kid whining & complaining the entire time.

Honestly, if don't you think your child won't need something to keep her occupied when she is at that age, you are in for a rude awakening. I had tons of preconceived notions when I was childless & when DD was younger & I have learned the beauty of being flexible.

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answers from Anchorage on

my kids are 5 and 7 and still bring small toys to restaurants, I really do not see why it would be an issue. It is not like they are playing with them while they are eating, only while we are waiting for our food. As for church, we do not go, but I could not imagine forcing a child any younger than 9 or 10 to actually pay attention during a sermon, I remember those as a child an it was torture, probably a big part of the reason I will take my kids to a church.

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answers from Boston on

I think it's unreasonable to ask a child to sit through a church service including a sermon she can't understand and using a hymnal she cannot follow. I think it's perfectly reasonable to bring something quiet with which to play (nothing with a lot of pieces), and definitely nothing electronic or that requires your participation. If there are certain parts of the service you feel your child can participate in, then explain that up front. If it's a children's service, that's a different story.

For restaurants, the wait from the time you sit down until you place an order and it actually arrives can be fairly long. We kept a box of small games in the car that were used for restaurants - things like tic-tac-toe or other "board and pegs" games were great. We used them until the food came up until our son was 8 or so. Otherwise, kids want to play with the sugar packets! After the food came, it was conversation time.

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answers from Redding on

We take our grand daughter out to eat often and I usually stick a couple small plastic dinosaurs or other animal in my purse. I never bring them out unless she really cant sit still and be quiet after asking her to a few times. We will go 3 or 4 times in a row never needing the toys, and sometimes it only takes 5 minutes at the table and she needs something to keep her occupied. There is a big difference when shes had a nap, and nothing to snack on. She will sit and eat and be wonderful. But if its too close after snack time or she missed her nap, we are asking for a bit of a problem and its our fault. I have taken her many times, outside to talk and she calms down a bit, but sometimes all it takes is to hand her a couple small quiet toys and she goes off in her own little world to play and lets us eat in peace. And, I have never let her bang on the table with a spoon or fork, and never took noisy toys with us. As a patron of the restaurant I dont want to listen to that from a table next to me.

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answers from Portland on

What do you mean exactly by "entertainment", V.?

My son is four and I plan on bringing books and colored pencils, sticker books for him until I can see that he's okay without them. I work with kids and know that for them, even three minutes of sitting still when they want to run around is hard. I personally am not a big fan of electronic devices in public (sorry, rude, in my opinion) but I do understand that my son has needs too. Just sitting around and listening to mom and dad talk is boring. Dinner may take a while to come to the table: a pen and paper is mor pleasant than a hungry, complaining kid.

Sometimes church is boring for youngsters too, mainly because the sermon is usually directed toward adults and thus, the content is unrelatable for a six year old. When we went to church with family, even at 8 or so, we were allowed to bring coloring books/FunPads (with dot-to-dot and puzzles). The point was for us to stay busy so as not to disturb those around us, so they could enjoy the sermon. I still remember bringing my Holly Hobbie lace-up paper dolls to church when I was seven, and that those adult conversations were BORING!

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answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter is 9 and I allow her to decide what to bring with her when we go to a restaurant or other times she will need to entertain herself. She doesn't "need" to have something and will make do with a pencil or crayon and something to draw on. But I don't see any problem with this as long as it is not loud or disruptive. And yes, she is perfectly capable and many times does join in the adult conversation.

We do not go to church, but I did as a child. I clearly remember writing, drawing, and playing games on the bulletin until I was a teenager. After that I just daydreamed about boys...

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answers from Augusta on

yes that is unrealistic.
You don't know what is going on with these kids and if they have problems like ADHD.
sorry but 5 and 6 yr olds don't sit quietly for anything. Their little minds are going going going. and waiting isn't their best subject. some resturants have coloring things but when they run out of crayons or something you need a back up plan.During dinner isn't the problem it's waiting for dinner. and no they CAN'T sit still for an hr in church.

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answers from San Diego on

My oldest is 10 and I still have to have something for him at restaurants. It helps with my 7 year old too. Waiting for dinner can be a huge pain when you're hungry and young. Once food gets in front of them they're good though and are fine for after dinner conversation and such. I even find myself doodling because I'm bored and I need to keep my mind off the fact that I'm really hungry and it takes a while at a restaurant to get your food. I still hold conversations and all of that but the doodling or coloring is nice at the same time. I'm 40.
We don't do church so I can't help with that.

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answers from Chattanooga on

That's why kids meals have toys! lol. I remember being sooo dreadfully bored during church... My grandpa used to keep notecards and pencils in his suit pocket so we could at least draw during the service. I think I was probably 10 when I wasn't allowed to draw any more. :P

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answers from Pittsburgh on

We have never brought toys to restaurants and DS (5) has been going out with us since he was born. We go to regular restaurants (not child friendly places). We do let him us the crayons/coloring pages that the wait staff shove in his face when they see a child. Otherwise, we include him in the conversation. And yes, this means we talk a lot about lego and preschool. But how else are children to learn how to behave in a restaurant and converse with adults?

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answers from New York on

Call me crazy, but I don't think that entertaining is needed for church or a restaurant. If these are places that they frequent, then they should be taught at home that it isn't play time. If they act up in church, take them to the bathroom to calm them down. A restaurant is for eating not playing. That's just me. My children aren't angels, but they know how to behave in public places.

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answers from Spokane on

My 7 y/o and almost 3 y/o both bring "stuff" to church to help keep them entertained/quiet. My 7 y/o brings things like books, paper, pencils - not toys - and only gets them during the adult sermon. Other than that I expect him to participate - like stand up when necessary, pray and go up for children's sermon and communion.
Neither of my kids bring things for entertainment to a restaurant. They color if paper menu's and crayons are offered. Otherwise, they visit with others at the table.



answers from Philadelphia on

I would say for church that once they go to kindergarten it's ok to bring a book or doll/stuffed animal to church. Nothing that makes noise obviously! Once they start school they learn to sit quietly and should be about to make it in church.
As for the restaurant...I'd say that once they can color, that should be good entertainment for them as many places give out crayons and fun placemats. However, if you are with a lot of adults and it's going to be a long dinner and no other kids to chat with, then it's ok to bring a DS or something.


answers from Chicago on

My kids sit (for the most part) in the pews for hourly Mass 1 time a week at the age of 2.5 and almost 4...with NO TOYS. If we go to a restaurant (which is rare due to DD's food allergies), it is usually somewhere that has coloring pages and crayons so that is their entiretainment other than eating. I just don't believe in kids bringing toys to church -- it is distracting to everyone else around them.



answers from Toledo on

We have never let them bring any sort of entertainment to a restaurant or church. It drives me batty to see kids sitting in church playing video games or reading books. Same with a restaurant. I was so irritated when we were at a family restaurant once and the mom and two pre-teen(ish) sons were all playing either handheld games or on a cell phone, while the dad just sat there literally staring at the wall. They got there the same time we did and I don't think I heard any of them say one word to each other. It was incredibly sad.

Anyway, we just have never let them because we have always wanted them to learn from the start that there are times when they will just need to sit and listen or watch or converse. If they are always entertained with "stuff" they will either flip out when that is no longer an option or/and not be able to contain themselves without such entertainment. To answer your question...yes, that is very unrealistic. There is no reason at age 2 why a child can't sit and color with the crayons given at the restaurant or thumb through a hymnal gently for an hour. The only reason she wouldn't be able to is because she has never had to, so she probably doesn't know how. Now is the time to start "training" her on proper public behavior.



answers from Kansas City on

I'm not sure because we have never let our kids bring a toy to restaraunts. I'm not saying it's wrong, we have just never done that. Also with church, most of time he uses the pens in the pews to color on the bulletins. So much easier than finding toys every time we have to leave. :)


answers from Austin on

I agree with you, we still take paper and pencils to sketch, we even keep question cards and Bananagrams in the car, and we are all now adults (well physically anyway).. We obviously do not take them into church or a meeting, but for young kids till they can take a book to read or stay still and pay attention, I think it is always a good idea for them to have something to keep them busy.

We always had a small plastic tool box filled with activities and our daughter knew she could bring it into places.



answers from Los Angeles on

Well i am 42 and i still bring something to do at church or at dinner.
Why does it matter if they "sit still". If you want to ensure they get what should from the experience, let them experience it at their own rate.

Family Success Coach


answers from Reading on

We do take "entertainment." My son will be 5 this weekend and he brings his Star Wars guys into the restaurant and plays quietly with them when he's not chatting with us. My 6 year old loves to color and will bring paper and crayons if the restaurant doesn't supply them. My 3 year old just likes to eat, and will graze on anything (if we let her) until the meal comes, or just sit and talk our ear off :) However, we do require our children to interact with us and others at the table and use manners etc. We went to a fancy restaurant this past weekend for Mother's Day and the kids didn't bring anything in with them and did just fine. But they did get bored toward the end of our two hour dinner, and I'd wished we'd remembered to bring "entertainment."
Also, we never ever bring anything other than our bibles to church. They are expected to sit quietly and participate in singing when they are not in children's church. Most churches do have nursery's and children's church so that kids don't have to be bored during a service (an hour of sitting and listening is a long time at this age.) But if they do have to be in the service, they cannot "play" and distract others in the service.

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