Two Simple Hacks To Dining Out With Kids: iPads Not Included


Want to know how we bring our 4 kids to restaurants and on 8-hour car trips without iPads? I have two simple tricks that have saved our entire family’s sanity!

No Cooking? No Cleaning? Who Doesn’t Love Dining Out?!

I love dining out! The food tastes better. No cooking or cleaning for this Mama! Count me in!

But as us Moms know it ain’t that easy with kids!



Brace Yourselves Folks…We Don’t Own iPads 

I know. Its the oddest thing ever. Our family doesn’t own iPads, tablets, or iPods. According to our kids, we are the last family on earth without them! WAAAAH! I feel oh so bad for my deprived, neglected children (insert eye roll).

Now, let me be clear, I have nothing against kids who use tablets or electronics! I’m not on a soapbox here. But for our family, it just wouldn’t work. Our 8 year old becomes drastically over-stimulated with too much TV (read: his behavior hits the red-zone!!!). Plus, I know how our kids function – they’d constantly beat each other argue over the electronics. To me, its not worth the headache.

…Which Made Dining Out & Traveling A Nightmare

So without electronic entertainment, dining out and road trips were always a circus for our family. We’d leave restaurants, vowing to never, EVER, dine-out again with our children! Yet, a few weeks later, we’d find ourselves back in a restaurant because some evenings, I just cannot cook another freaking meal!

So, how did we find a solution to the dining disasters???

This past Fall, we had plans for our first ever trip to Disney World. This meant 3 meals a day in restaurants which was exciting…but the idea also freaked me out! I wasn’t only stressing about dining out disasters! But also the flights! The airports!

How would I rein in our wild monkeys while in public? So I started Pinteresting and Googling to find ways to entertain my kiddos. I was looking for ideas that would provide quiet entertainment and encourage independent play. Also, easy to transport (sorry! Not gonna lug coloring books, crayons, and toys for all four kids through the Disney Parks!). And finally, must be inexpensive (Disney sucked the soul out of our bank account).

The 2 Winners 

1. Sensory Play Kits: This one is the golden ticket for us! Its changed our dining and travel experiences completely! I got the idea from Young Wild & Friedman. Check them out! This Mama-owned company makes adorable sensory play kits for kids.

Being a cheap frugal Mom, I decided to make some of our own to bring to Disney. They are nowhere near as fabulous and creative as the versions Young Wild & Friedman creates…but these knock-offs work for us!

The Sensory Play Kits typically contain playdoh or kinetic sand, along with some open-ended play items. Most of the supplies I purchased from the Dollar Tree. With exception of the Playdoh (Amazon) and the Meal Prep Containers (Target). They are pretty inexpensive to make!

Here are a few I made:

You guys, my kids played non-stop with these. There’s just something very calming about Playdoh. The open-ended items in the kits are all from the Dollar Store and include dinosaur figures, pipe-cleaners, stretchy bugs, finger monsters, googly eyes, wooden numbers, markers, and beads. 

Even Our Big Kids Loved Them

Although they may not admit it to their friends, our 8 and 10 year olds ended up enjoying these Sensory Kits as well. When finished we just closed the Meal Prep Containers and used the kits again over and over and over. In fact we still have them (I’ve since replaced them with fresh Playdoh).

I now keep several of the kits in the trunk of our minivan. The younger kids use them most often…while watching their siblings play soccer and basketball games, at Church, long car rides, etc.

An awesome bonus is that the kits are small. So they easily fit in a purse, diaper bag or under a stroller. While in Disney World, I kept a few of them under our stroller. Easy peasy!

Our 4 year old, playing with a Sensory Play Kit on the airplane.
Even our 8 year old is entertained with the Sensory Play Kits!
Sometimes us parents get in on the Playdoh fun!
This is actually how my eyebrows looked in High School.

2. Kids Charades App: Okay, so don’t call me a hypocrite…but this one is technically an App used on an iPhone. But bare with me, because the kiddos aren’t technically “playing” a game on the iPhone. The iPhone is more like a prop. We play this as a family in restaurants (or sometimes the kids play the game with each other while my husband and I have an uninterrupted conversation. GASP! I know…its rare!). You can download the app by clicking on the image below:

The game is age appropriate for young and older kids…really for the entire family. There’s challenges of singing, acting out and even sketching. When its your turn, you guess the word on the “card” from the clues other players give to you, before the timer runs out. The “card” is displayed on the iPhone which you actually hold on your head (so only the other players can see it).

Our 10 year old, holding the “card” on her head while we give her clues.
Even our 4 year old plays!

So Sensory Play Kits and Charades for the win! Two fairly simple tools that have completely changed our dining out experience (and car rides, and sports events and so many other times!).

I’d love to hear some of your tricks for entertaining kids in restaurants! Comment below if you have any!

12 thoughts on “<span class="hpt_headertitle">Two Simple Hacks To Dining Out With Kids: iPads Not Included</span>”

  1. I love this, I always keep a small party size playdoh in my bag for them to play with and a few cars bc even at 10 my son will play with them when out

  2. I love this. I too don’t have tablets for my kids, not because I’m against, but taking them away my kids act crazy, but mostly it’s another responsibility for mom. Mom, wheres my charger?, mom whats the password?, etc, etc. I can’t keep track of another thing. For plane rides I’ve done the wrap little sensory toys in wrapping paper and that was fun for the kids. But also have done nothing and when my kids are loud and talking, people make comments and get annoyed. I find they either judge you for kids always being on tablets or they judge you for your kids being silly and having fun. Bottom line is every one judges and a lot are rude, just be glad you are not one of those judgy rude people!

  3. Rubix cubes and magnetic balls in my purse have saved me many times! I also carry small colored pens- I can use them when we aren’t out and when we are, they can draw or play games while we wait.

  4. Katie, this is great! We haven’t started any screen time with Amy yet and she will not be getting a tablet either, even after we start TV eventually. Like you, I have nothing against families that do, but my years as a teacher gave me a front seat to kids’ screen addition and I want to avoid it as long as I can lol! I’m going to look into sensory kits I can put together that would be good for Amy- thanks for posting!

  5. Hey Katie, this is a great article. I would love to share it with my friends on Facebook. Do you mind if I share this with the line saying something like “let’s support women in business. Check out this blog post”. Lmk

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