Taking children to restaurants can sometimes be quite a challenge. Sometimes they are tired, bored and just don’t want to sit nicely and quietly in their chairs. During the first few years of being parents, my husband and I avoided taking our children out to restaurants because they could get antsy and pretty much create a stressful dining experience for us. We didn’t have “Stepford” children that sat upright and quietly ate like little gentlemen and a little lady.

A few years ago, we went on a week-long vacation in Michigan.  The children were 5, 3 and 1 years old at the time. We rented a house with a complete kitchen and cooked many of our meals. One of my favorite things about being on vacation is going out to eat and having someone else cook a delicious meal for you.  I wanted to make sure we could enjoy a relaxing (I emphasize the word relaxing) dinner as a family.  A week before we left for vacation, we decided to do a test run and take our children out to a sit down restaurant.  It went very well, especially since the restaurant we chose gave the children a few inexpensive trinket-type toys to play with while they waited for their food. They sat quietly and played until dinner was served. We were amazed. Thus our restaurant fun boxes were born.

We had some containers left over from a visit to Six Flags Great America.  They served kid’s meals in a plastic, durable little suitcase-type box. We packed them full of fun, cheap trinkets from the local party store.  For the week long vacation, I bought about $20 worth of birthday gift-bag type of toys. Each visit to a restaurant, I would add two or three toys to their boxes.  That way each visit to a restaurant they could expect something new and exciting to do. The toys stay in their boxes until the next time we need to go out to eat.  I keep the boxes safely tucked in the van; therefore they are always on hand when we have an impromptu dining adventure. I also customize the boxes for each child’s interests. For my younger son, who likes bugs and reptiles, I added several plastic creepy crawlies.  My daughter’s box has princesses, rings, bracelets, and cute stamps. My oldest son’s box has mini finger skate boards, aliens that pop off the table, dog tags and markers with paper.  This has been a life saver!