Parenting Hack: Restaurant Busy Bags

If you’re anything like me, you’re not so comfortable with how your 2 year old could probably design and develop her own app. My child is painfully professional when it comes to her technological skills because, let’s face it, she spends too much time on the iPad and playing on my iPhone with all the “educational apps” we’ve gotten her.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a huge hang up with technology and kids but I also see the other side of the street when parents discuss the fights over iPhone time, screaming over limits on screen time, and general sedentary couch time and lack of connection. We battle with these things and I sometimes worry that I might be impacting her imagination or creativity with built in plots and repetitive games.

baby ipad

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Either way- we all know it works!

Technology works like magic when you’re sitting in a restaurant and your child wants to climb under the table and over the booth behind you. It works when you just want to eat a hot meal and not “entertain” like a broadway rendition of Lion King in the middle of Red Robin. And can I just say, bless Red Robin and their table tablets with tons of apps for kids. I have had me a nice hot burger and fries without having to dance on stilts and I thank you for that!

Kid at restaurant

Image by Erik Przekop

But here’s the deal- I know better and with a little amount of time and effort I can throw together an awesome parenting hack that saves me from having to rely on my phone. AND I still get to enjoy a hot meal!

So what do you need?

  • Tote or hanging cosmetic bags work well
  • Crayons and markers with coloring pages or coloring book
  • Little toy cars, action figures, barbies, etc.
  • Quiet books (these are amazing and you don’t have to make them, you can buy them on Amazon!)
  • Wind up toys (best place to get novelty toys is Cost Plus World Market…go figure)
    Legos/Blocks (small)
  • Colored clothes pins and matching paint chip samples (pinterest)
  • Large magnets
  • Lacing Activities
  • Books, play dough, etc.
  • Plastic utensils, wipes, straws

You get the idea! The most important thing to remember- They only get to play with the restaurant busy bag when you go out, otherwise the items lose their novelty. You also have to switch out items every couple months or so to keep it fresh. I love the dollar bins at Target, Cost Plus World Market, Etsy, and Dollar General for cheap, new items to keep ’em occupied. These all work for air travel too!

I never fly without a backpack for Boba filled to the brim with novel toys, games, books, weird little crafts and snacks for days. Trust me, it works and I can relieve some of the mommy guilt with a little less screen time.