Restaurant Survival Kit: Keeping Tiny Hands Busy Out To Eat (Without a Screen!)


I love to eat out! I love the experience of someone else cooking for my family of five and eating out is a great opportunity to teach my kids table manners, which are sometimes different out in the world! It is also the time I remember how my kids need a lot of support in the entertainment department. Enter The Restaurant Survival Kit!

With that said, I am also here to be real. And the truth is that kids aren’t always capable of sitting still and being polite with nothing to do! Some places offer coloring, but many don’t so I always like to be prepared!

The trick is that all items should be compact and lightweight so they easily fit in a purse or diaper bag, but should be entertaining enough to engage your kiddos during the 20- to 30-minute wait. (Magna tiles are the jam, but they are HEAVY!)

After almost 13 years of parenting, here are my favorite things to bring along so we can make eating out an enjoyable experience for ALL!

Younger years

  • Play dough – We love the kits that Earth Grown KidDoughs make because they are small and portable but there are TONS of options out there, or you can make your own!
  • Floam/Slime – I debated including this because some can be messy! Use with caution!
  • Wiki Sticks
  • Balance Kits – We had animal kit like this one. I’ll be honest they are on the heavy side BUT from 9months-18months it was all we needed for all 3 of my kiddos!
  • Scratch Art
  • Crayons/Paper


  • All of the above, plus:
  • Paper folding kits/Origami – Origami can come in many different ages depending on the age of your kids. We found the paper folding kit and it worked even for adults and a great way to keep teens off their phones!
  • ALL THE GAMES! Here are a few of our favorites:
    • Spot it – This game also comes in many different variations based on interests like Disney or Marvel and many more!
    • Uno
    • Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza
    • Standard deck of cards (and bonus of dimes and nickels and pennies for playing 21)

Pro tip

Pick 3-4 items that only come out during restaurant visits, never at home, in the car, or anywhere else. That keeps them super exciting! Every so often it’s good to refresh your “bag of tricks” and the old items can become things they always have access to. Plus by then, you will trust them to use it correctly ahem slime! (maybe!). 

One more Pro-Tip

You end up at a restaurant without your bag of tricks? Here are a few games you can play with items from your table!

  • I spy: Literally the easiest game! We play this at the airport, the doctor’s office and literally everywhere we go! For older kids, the more obscure the better!
  • What’s Missing: Set out 4-5 items, (for older kids more) have them close their eyes while you remove 1 item and see if they can figure out what is missing.
  • Patterns!: Make a pattern using different colored sugar packets and utensils

Those are my favorite, what would you add to this Restaurant Survival Kit? How do you keep your kids entertained while out on the town? Let us know in the comments!

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Erin is a previous educator turned tech-WFH mom which allows her the flexibility she has always dreamed of. She came to Colorado for the first time in the summer of 2016 and her husband, Rick (then, boyfriend!) took his very first plane ride to visit her. They both fell in love with CO hoping to call it home one day. After 4 cross-country moves, that day finally came in the summer of 2022! Erin and Rick along with their 3 kids and giant English Mastiff have settled in Peyton and literally couldn't be happier. They enjoy adventuring and keeping things real. Keep up with Erin on Instagram @therealricelife.