The other day my family and I were celebrating a special event at a fun Mexican restaurant, when my two-year-old son decided he wanted to be the center of attention. Well, not really, but it ended up that way.
As I was ordering my meal and talking to the waiter, my son stood up in his chair, lost his balance and accomplished a trifecta of destruction: 1) his chair fell sideways in the aisle, landing with a loud “thud” at the feet of several other guests, 2) his cup of water and seemingly 300 ice cubes careened across the floor, forming a huge lake, and 3), he fell to the floor, too, and had a look of shock on his face apparently wondering how he had made such a big mess so fast.
He thankfully was fine, but it was only our latest example of something every parent already knows: It’s not easy taking children to restaurants. One of our three kids enjoys crawling under the table from time to time. Another one wants only to sit in my lap. All three would eat anything found on the floor if given a chance. And I haven’t even talked about what one of my boys likes to do in the men’s restroom.
My wife and I use electronics only sparingly with our children, but when we’re at a restaurant trying to have a good, pleasant meal and conversation – and not waste $25 or more — we’ll sometimes pull out our smartphones and let them play a game or two.
Honestly, just about any game will work with a toddler, but I’ve found that apps with animals works best with our kids. Here are my four favorite apps that distract my toddlers long enough for me to eat more tortilla chips, drink another glass of tea, or simply talk with my wife a few more minutes.
Animals For Toddlers (iPhone version, Android version) – I bought this once while sitting in a restaurant once with my wife and her family, when my little girl was squirming like a monkey. The app has six animal scenes – for instance, “farm” and “Australian” – with unique animals on each board. When the child touches each animal, it makes a noise. It also has a neat function that makes the screen toddler-proof.
Animal Zoo interactive flash cards (iPhone version, Android version) — I still don’t fully understand how this app works, but here is what I do know: You touch the screen and animals bounce around and make sounds, and my youngest ones love it. It’s not as impressive as “Animals For Toddlers,” but it is cheaper.
Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Learning Letters (iPhone version, Android version) – If you want your toddlers to begin learning letters while you munch on chips and salsa, this is a good one. It’s very toddler friendly, giving a picture illustration and sound effects (“C” for “Cat”) for each letter. Additionally, it includes the alphabet song, along with a section on numbers and shapes.
Endless Alphabet (iPhone version, Android version) – This one’s kinda expensive app-wise, but it’s very impressive, too. Kids learn letters and spelling with what are called “adorable monsters” that truly are entertaining. For a 2 year old, Fisher Price’s Laugh & Learn app is better, but this one is worth considering for older children.
Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes popcorn. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog for free? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public).
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