Recently a colleague asked me to provide some tips on how to keep children entertained when eating out for an article she was writing. Here's what I said and hopefully it will help those of you endeavouring out:
1) Visit the dollar store first for new packs of stickers, crayons, colouring books, plastic blocks. New is always exciting.
2) Challenge the kids to draw a picture of what they ordered for dinner and see how it matches.
3) Before you go out, think up trivia questions you can ask each child, in turn. Make each age/subject appropriate. Keeping the conversation going avoids boredom, which leads to fighting and fidgeting.
4) Older children could bring books to read before the meal arrives. Try to avoid distracting and excitable electronic game systems.
5) Assign the seating. Keep warring siblings apart and changing seats is now allowed!
6) Above all, don't linger. Order immediately and have the coffee at home.
Of course, what I didn't mention is to ask the kids how wide the smile on Mom's face is. I didn't have to cook, there's wine available, and if the kids don't like the meal they ordered, they can't blame my crappy cooking.
It's all good.