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Eating out with toddler: 10 ways to get him to behave without tablets and phones

Eating out with toddler: 10 ways to get him to behave without tablets and phones

As soon as you arrive at the restaurant, your little one gets fidgety and tears up the menu. Or perhaps you're only halfway through your plate of nasi biryani before he flings his sippy cup at an unlucky diner.

He can't quite grasp the concept of having to sit and wait (any duration is always much too long for him). But you don't want to resort to keeping him occupied with your tablet or smartphone.

Here, 10 parents with young kids share with Young Parents how they enjoy a peaceful meal.

ONE TRICK AT A TIME

"Our boy loves to eat on his own, so self-feeding is the best entertainment. But when he's done with his food and we're not, that's when other tricks come in - ice in cups can keep him busy for 10 minutes, straws for five more, pen and paper for a further five. And, by then, one of us would be done with our meal and can let him out of the high chair."

- Jelyn Chew, stay-home mum

CUTLERY FUN

"We draw faces with different expressions on disposable spoons and ask him which one is happy, sad and angry. He also enjoys playing 'pretend food' - we cut them out using colour paper or foam - on his plate. The good thing is this simple game lets him play quietly and not disturb other diners. But it can be tricky when we're eating at alfresco, windy places."

- Evelyn Ng-Kway, stay-home mum

TIME FOR SCIENCE

"I like to make use of items on the table to entertain my kids, such as making a hand puppet with a serviette. When I put sugar cubes in hot tea, I take the chance to teach about solids and liquids."

- Winnie Lee, educator

HERE'S MY CARD

"We give our baby a namecard folder filled with our expired membership cards. She keeps herself busy flipping the plastic pages and trying to pull the cards out."

- Cassandra Seow, assistant marketing manager

FORM A BAND

"Whenever we eat out, we usually try to keep our youngest busy with baby biscuits, teethers and toys. But she loses interest quickly, so we've to make up 'new playthings' for her - plastic bowls and spoons become a drum set and two sauce plates become clappers. That helps keep her occupied for a while and, well, at least allow one parent to finish the meal and take her for a walk."

- Summer Goh, stay-home mum

LACE THEM UP

"I punch holes into the back covers of magazines at home and take these out. When we're at restaurants, the kids have fun lacing them with strings and creating different shapes. We also have small number cards that we use to do one-to-one correspondence counting with anything on the table, from their drinks to French fries. Writing the numbers on napkins works just as well."

- Nadia Cheong, stay-home mum

GUESS WHAT?

"The magnetic drawing board is a lifesaver. We start off by drawing objects that he's able to identify - apple, ball, flower and so on - and ask him to guess. He also loves to doodle on it."

- Dennis Wee, analyst

EXPEL SOME ENERGY

"We let the kids run around a bit outside the restaurant before the food arrives at the table, but part of the deal is that they have to sit down once it comes. Naomi usually tries to self-feed part of her meal, but when she loses interest, we'll take out crayons and a notebook for her to scribble in, or some books for her to read."

- Vera Ong, stay-home mum

SORT YOUR GREENS

"I always bring some mixed vegetables out, put them in a feeding bowl with compartments, and let my son sort out the peas, carrots and corn. He loves the activity, and the veggies get eaten quickly, too."

- Lindy Koh, operations manager

MORE FRUITS

"My bag is usually packed with drawing paper, crayons and markers. Sometimes I'll pack some cut fruits from home to keep Javier busy while waiting for our meal to be served. These also help banish hunger pangs."

- June Yong, investor relations consultant

This article was first published in Young Parents.

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