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Top 5 Toys to Keep Kids Occupied

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When you eat out, do you spend the whole meal picking up the crayons that are rolling off the table? Here are five suggestions for fun toys to bring along on your next culinary adventure.

Top 5 Toys to Keep Kids Occupied in a Restaurant

Eating in Restaurants

When we had kids, we didn't stop eating in restaurants. (Though there may have been a few months when our daughters were two that we thought twice about it.) What can parents do to make the experience of eating out as pleasant as possible? Try one of these toys to keep your kids occupied and you happy. Who knows -- they may like it so much, you'll have time for a cup of coffee at the end of the meal.

#1: Wikki Stix

Wikki Stix are so fun, I dare you to keep your hands off of them.

Like little waxy magic wands, they keep my 5-year-old and my 10-year-old quiet and happy. I have seen these little moldable strings mesmerize kids of all ages.

#2: Melissa and Doug Triangular Crayons

If your kids equate restaurants with drawing and coloring, skip the loose pieces of paper: pack small notebooks. My kids are often happy with a pen from my purse, but for younger ones, get strategic. Melissa and Doug makes a fantastic box with an attached lid that holds 12 triangular crayons. Even the container is so cool that young kids may be content just moving the crayons in and out of the box.

#3: Littlest Pet Shop and Star Wars Galactic Heroes

Before leaving for a restaurant, pack a toy purse or plastic container with a few small figures that can stand easily on a flat surface. Not balls -- we are trying to avoid things that roll off the table and you banging your head trying to retrieve them! My 5-year-old loves Littlest Pet Shop and Star Wars Galactic Heroes. Letting these characters have a little restaurant adventure will help pass the time until the grilled cheese sandwich or foie gras arrives.

#4: Etch A Sketch

Going old school: While compiling this list, I asked my Facebook friends for some advice, and Etch A Sketch was a popular suggestion. One local restaurant even keeps some on hand for their young guests.

Pick up a travel-size Etch A Sketch. Have you ever tried to get through a long plane flight by surprising your kid with a few new toys? Try saving the Etch A Sketch just for restaurants. Your kids will look forward to sitting still and playing with their special "going out with Mom and Dad" toy.

#5: Nintendo DS

Before I was a mom, I thought I would never let my kids play video games at the table. Enter the DS ... loads of games they can play with the volume down. We save this for the end of a long meal when the kids have needed to be patient. We use it so rarely, they think of it as a great treat. It's perfect for the times you ask your kids to sit an extra long time because Grandma would like to order a cup of coffee and not rush.

With the new DSi, kids can take photos and play with the special effects any time.

At a restaurant without toys?

Here are some suggestions from my Facebook friends:

• Spoons
• Hangman
• Tic-Tac-Toe
• Build houses (like card houses) with the sugar packs. Then clean them up before you leave.
• Let them play a game on your iPhone.
• One friend recommends that the kids actually eat.
• And of course, you can always ask your kids to have a quiet, civilized conversation -- ha!

next: Love Your Kids More Than Your Hubby?
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