When you were young and kid-free, you could go to eat at just about any restaurant. Fine dining? No problem! Local dive bar? Even better! Chain restaurant with a kids eat free night? Um, pass. Then you have your own kids and think, “I can still go to that swanky new restaurant! Just because other kids don’t behave well enough, doesn’t mean mine won’t!”
Enter reality, which comes in the form of you, your significant other, three boys ranging in age from three to twelve years. Your significant other asks which one of you is going to order soda so the other can have that coveted glass of wine. Your three year-old is throwing sugar packets on the floor and laughing at the top of his lungs. The seven year-old is draining the battery on your iPhone playing Angry Birds and the twelve year old is moody, headphones in his ears, saying he’s bored. Seem familiar?
I’ve never been a huge fan of taking toys to restaurants before, but I’ve had a total change of heart. If it means just one meal with the kids (and adults) not face down in their phones/iPods, then sign me up. I love the small collectable toys like Ickee Stickies, Squinkies and The Trash Pack. Kids can play with a bunch of them, yet they are small enough to stash in your pocket. We make up games such as playing “I spy with my little eye” to see if they can guess which tiny toy we are thinking of, or memory games by showing a handful of them, taking out one and then having the others guess which one is missing.
Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars are great toys for restaurants as well. You can set up a racetrack on the table using sugar packets to mark out the path. The bar usually has mini umbrellas, flags or swords the kids can use as the trophy for the winner. Occasionally my boys would get a little loud when they were winning, but I had to stop and realize, they are kids, it’s what they do. We go to kid-friendly restaurants now, especially if they have that “kids eat free” night I used to avoid.
So these days we don’t get to go to the mod new “fusion” spot or the fancy steakhouse owned by some local athlete. But I’m fine with that. Places where I can draw on the tables and give the kids balloons if they finish their meal are growing on me, as long as we keep my purse full of toys to keep them occupied.