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Five Best Restaurant Activities for Kids

Even if not a designated "family restaurant," most restaurants have a "kids activity" to offer an assist to parents trying to get a night out with the whole family. But while most restaurants have an activity, it is generally the standard menu/activity page and a pack of waxy crayons in primary colors. No parent is ever ungrateful for the attempt, but these sorts of activities are the same everywhere you go and don't do much to entertain kids for long.

Why bother entertaining children? Because happy kids mean happy parents. If the kids are having fun, the parents will want to milk their time out as long as possible--and that means they'll likely add-on and spend more. Of course you want to create an inviting environment for all your patrons. But a few extra things to make your guests feel relaxed and known and cared for can benefit you as well. 

Our New York and Denver restaurant consultants often dine out with very young children; and they say, ditch the packets of crayons and opt for one or all of these five best activities for kids at restaurants:

1. Butcher Paper: This is an easy, quick thing to do for guests with small children. Drawing "on the table" is always more fun than a designated coloring page. If you spread paper across the table, offer a jar of pretty colored pencils or stickers and encourage the kids to decorate their space.

2. A Library: Books are a sure, quiet way to pass some time. But they are cumbersome for parents to bring along. Designate a shelf in the most family-friendly area of your restaurant. Kids can excuse themselves to "check-out" a few books at a time. They'll move occasionally to get the wiggles out, and they'll sweetly entertain themselves back at the table.

3. Interactive Meals: Of course, this tactic depends some on the type of restaurant, but an interactive meal is always a hit. Bring out some pizza dough and let them top their own pizza! Cut a grilled cheese into puzzle pieces to be reassembled before eaten. Offer a cookie to decorate in exchange for good behavior and a well-consumed meal.

4. Seek-and-find pages: You could have some "Where's Waldo" books on hand; or you could offer your own search-and-find pages in lieu of a regular menu/activity page. These are more time consuming and require focus. And if they find everything that is hidden, they can always color it afterward to pass some extra time.

5. Small building/peg games and toys: Things on your table are going to get stacked where children are present. That's just the nature of kids. Avoid the crash of salt and pepper shakers by providing small boxes of legos or blocks. If your table is covered, a toppled tower won't make too loud a sound, and the kids will have fun with a more tactile activity option. Or, think "Cracker Barrel" and invest in some old-fashioned peg games. Even the kids not old enough to actually strategize and play will enjoy something different and interactive.

How do you make sure you provide a family friendly atmosphere in your restaurant? Contact our restaurant consultants for more ways to enhance your diners' experience.