PARENTS

How To Successfully Occupy Children In Restaurants Without Using Technology

13/08/2015 16:50 BST | Updated 14/08/2015 09:59 BST

One in three parents (34%) give their children a smartphone or tablet to keep them occupied while eating out as a family, a study released by Bookatable found.

But with kids growing up with gadgets around every single day, how easy is it to move away from "digital babysitting" when you want to keep them satisfied in a restaurant?

Amanda Gummer, child psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children told HuffPost UK Parents: "I’d suggest that conversation is obviously the most beneficial in terms of social development, attachment and communication.

"However, it’s not always easy with young children, especially if there are several adults around the table talking about current affairs."

family restaurant

Gummer added: "Ideally the adults should balance inclusive conversations that children can participate in with more adult conversations - children learn a lot from simply listening to adult conversations.

"There are lots of fun things to do to keep children engaged in conversation at the table - games such as Sussed! (recently tested and recommended by the Good Toy Guide) i-spy, 20 questions and quizzes will help keep hungry children distracted whilst waiting for a meal and help conversation flow.

"Meals out are a big part of social lives and we can take a leaf out of our European neighbour's book by making them more inclusive and enjoyable experiences for the whole family.

"To do that we need to set expectations for our children regarding behaviour, manners and engagement with the meal."

We reached out to our HuffPost UK Parents community on Facebook to find out how they occupied their children in a restaurant when technology wasn't involved.

1. Conversation topics and games.

It's easy to assume technology isn't needed to occupy your child because you can "just talk to them", but as Gummer pointed out, younger children will get distracted more easily.

Lynne on Facebook said she plays 20 questions with her youngest daughter. To play, one person thinks up an object, country or animal and the rest of the table has to ask them 20 questions or less to guess what they are thinking of.

With younger children, it's better to narrow it down and give them bigger clues so they're more engaged.

But without playing a game, talking about things that directly involve your children will engage them for longer.

Eddie on Facebook suggested talking about things they enjoy, events they have coming up, friends at school or asking them what they'd like to talk about.

2. Discuss the surroundings and food.

Debbie said: "We usually chat about what food my kids have ordered and the surroundings, but gear it towards their perspective."

When you're waiting for food, look at what other food is being brought out, keep the menu and see if they know what all the items on there are or what they'd add if they were the "chef".

SEE ALSO:

Many First-Time Parents Avoid Screen Time For First Year But Soon Turn To 'Digital Babysitting'

Tablets Aren't Just Virtual Babysitter for the Digital Generation

3. Colouring books in the restaurant.

Whether you're at a child-friendly restaurant where they supply colouring packs and pencils or you bring your own, Sarah on Facebook said going out for dinner is always a time the colouring is brought out.

It's always a good idea to ask a waiter or waitress if they have colouring packs, because they're not always advertised and some establishments wait for parents to ask for them before giving them out.

4. Pre-planned activity packs.

Mum Evelyn told HuffPost UK Parents: "My son always has his backpack with some toys, activity book and pens packed before we go. Sorted."

Many mums commented to say they always pack paper and pens in their bag before any trips out for lunch or dinner.

It's an easy thing to carry around and can be the basis of many games including hangman, noughts and crosses, practising handwriting or other word games.

Paula said she plays 'monster consequences' with her sons: "Each person draws a head, folds it down, hands it across, the next person draws a neck and so on till you can reveal the monster!"

Other great things to bring along are a pack of cards to play higher or lower, or your children's favourite books.

5. At-the-table games.

Requiring no props, Dee told us her and her daughter play the old-school games of rock, paper, scissors, eye spy and Chinese whispers round the table.

You might forget how fun these games actually are.

What other things do you do to occupy your children at a restaurant? Share your tips in the comment section below.

This August we're running a Digital Detox campaign, where we're championing switching off, spending more time with our loved ones and being more mindful around technology. From inspirational interviews to how it can massively improve your life, we hope to inspire everyone to get out there and reconnect with the world. If you'd like to contribute or blog, email uklifestyle@huffingtonpost.com or tag us on social media using the hashtag #HPDigital Detox

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