Going to a restaurant with your tiny humans is Hell. Pure. Hot. Hell. No one will deny it. Spending $12 on a kids’ meal they won’t eat is just infuriating. The meltdowns, the stares, the indecision, the stares, the spills, and mess. It’s awful. The only bright side to taking your littles to a restaurant is that you don’t have to cook for them yourself, listen to them complain about your cooking, or be the person cleaning up the disaster zone around their place at the table. (Tip your servers, folks.) The number one complaint from kids when going out to eat, though? “I’m booooooooored!” We make no promises (kids are fickle), but these restaurant table games just might make your dining experience a little more enjoyable.
Tabletop Restaurant Games
Pass the time waiting for your food with these fun games that can be put together with items from your table setting.
1. Sugars & Straws Tic-Tac-Toe
Use straws to make a tic tac toe grid. Instead of Xs and Os, assign sugar packets colors. Play just like you would with a normal game.
2. Sugar Packet Architecture
How big of a building can you make using only sugar packets?
3. Straw Wrapper Worms
Scrunch your straw wrapper down on the straw and then remove it. With a drop of your drink, the wrapper will wiggle and extend like a worm
This might be a server’s least favorite game to see guests play. And, honestly, it can get a little rowdy. But, at the right moment, it can be a ton of laughs, too.
5. Sugar Packet & Penny Trick
Just like the cup game but on a smaller scale, using what’s available at your table and in your pocket or purse. Hide a penny under one of 2-3 sugar packets. Move them all around and then have your kiddo guess where they’ll find the penny.
You can play I Spy with things throughout the restaurant or gear it towards the menu, so they have to practice reading. (Think: “I spy something with two eggs, two pieces of bacon, and two pieces of toast.” It’s IHOP’s 2x2x2)
7. What’s Missing?
Have your little bug close their eyes while you remove and hide something from the table (think, Dad’s silverware, the ketchup, or all the sugar packets). Can they guess what you hid?
8. Never Have I Ever – Food Edition
“Never have I ever eaten octopus.” If you have, put a finger down.
9. Yes or No game
Can you make it through dinner without saying yes or no?
Pen-and-Paper Tabletop Games
10. Regular Tic-Tac-Toe
Got a paper menu or a napkin? What about crayons or a pen? Tic tac toe is the way to go — if the normal-sized grid is getting too easy or boring, make a bigger grid.
11. Fortune Tellers
Also known as “cootie catchers.” Help them fold the kids’ menu into a fortune teller, then let them write their own surprise fortunes in them before each person at the table plays.
Best for older kids. If your tweens don’t know how to play, teach them!
13. Connect The Dots Game
Make a grid of dots. Two players should go back and forth drawing lines and connecting dots. Any time a person draws the fourth side of a square, they draw their initial inside and get a point. The idea is to collect squares without giving your opponent a chance to do the same.
14. ABC Spy
Using a disposable menu, give you kiddo 5-10 minutes to find and circle each letter of the alphabet, in alphabetical order. You can also name a letter for them to find and let them find it.
If you have a kiddo with vocabulary words to practice, Hangman is your game.
16. Pass The Paper/Top Secret Body Building
Fold a piece of paper (or a menu with a blank back) into three sections. On the top section, have someone draw a head or face of any kind. They should then fold it over so the middle section of the paper is visible, but nothing else. The next player must draw the upper body (waist up) without seeing the head. Finally, they should fold the paper so only the bottom section remains and pass it to the last artist to complete. When you unfold the paper, you should have created a pretty silly looking body.
More Restaurant Games
This is a fun game to play while waiting to be seated, waiting to be waited on, and even during dinner. The objective of the This or That game is to choose between two often similar choices like vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream, Anna or Elsa, or even spaghetti or meatballs. It’s super fun, keeps kids and parents alike occupied, and might reveal some interesting answers for all involved.
18. Guess All The Ingredients
This one can be fun for young kids just learning their foods and also for adults who consider themselves foodies. Extra points if you can identify the type of oil and spices used.
19. Who Is That?
Let your little one’s imagination run wild with this game. The gist? Discretely look at other diners in the restaurant and guess their name. Don’t stop there, though! Imagine what kind of job they have, where they live, if they have an accent… the more detailed you get, the better. Just be mindful not to stare — a quick glance will do.
Card Games to Play at the Restaurant
Toss these pleasantly portable card games into your bag and leave them there. You’ll never know when they might keep your kids from mutinying in the midst of a long wait time.
It’s a classic for a reason!
21. Phase 10
You may not have time to finish a full game before your food comes, but therein lies the beauty of this game. It’ll keep everyone’s focus on putting together the right sequences and not on their stomach pangs.