Kids melting down? Your placemat is your best friend.

No one feels like talking right now, and you would rather not hand your kids a screen to stare at until the food comes. Just flip your placemat over, ask the waitress for a pen, and enjoy some simple games together to pass the time.


A classic, timeless, simple game for all ages. Have a quick family tournament, and parents, don’t forget to play each other. You might have forgotten how much fun lining up X’s or O’s can be!


Also a classic, but this one does require some spelling savvy. Keep it simple for younger ones with basic categories, like animals or objects in the room.

People watching

Make a list of common characteristics – hair length, shirt color, glasses, beards – then look around the restaurant and make a tally of how many of each you can find in your immediate vicinity. Bonus points for anyone who can find a person who has everything on the list!  

Alphabet games

List the letters in the alphabet, and pick a category, such as animals, girls’ names, or desserts. Take turns listing something in that category starting with each letter of the alphabet. If that’s too easy, try words that END with each letter of the alphabet!


Have you filled up your placemat already? See our other post for more ideas on how to engage your kids at the table.

Gina Tuck