Raise your hand if you’ve ever sat down in a restaurant only to look around and find all the tables around you filled with people of all ages with some sort of device shoved into their face. OR, someone’s kid has the volume on their device turned up so loud you can hear it across the restaurant. Oh. My. Lanta. Make it stop.
But even more than the annoyance, all the memories being missed makes me sad. The table is a time for reconnection and face to face conversation. When did the table become the place for checking Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter? I get it, I do. Kids are hard to entertain at the table…but not impossible. I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom who enjoys her quiet time. But the table isn’t the place for me to ignore my kids while we’re all on our devices. If you feel like I’m stepping on toes, please know that it’s not intentional. I’m saying I get it. I’m saying I understand how sometimes it’s nice to just eat a meal with kids being quiet. But I went through the young years with my kids without electronics at the table, and you can too.
Not sure how? Lucky for you I’ve been there and done that so here are some tips and tricks for electronics-free dinners out!
If your child or teenager is used to immediately pulling out their phone or iPad at the table, this will be a big change for them. It’ll be easy to say, “Oh, just forget it,” and give in but DON’T! You’ll be so glad you continued. A good way to begin this practice is to do it at home. A zero tolerance policy at home will get you started and get them used to your new guidelines.
I purchased the most adorable, monogrammed (duh, I live in the South…we’ll put our initials on anything) bags with all kinds of pockets on the outside and a big space inside. They weren’t massive, and the kids carried them into the restaurant themselves at ages 2 and 4. We had them for forever. We’d pack crayons, little notepads, small toys, cars, Playdoh…anything that didn’t make noise and wouldn’t easily fall off the table. They’d do activities and talk to us (imagine that!!) while we waited for food. Then the toys went away when the food came. “How is this any different than the kids playing on an iPad?” you may ask. Well, the activities were inclusive of others. It wasn’t something they’d do alone, and we’d often interact with them as they played.
I know there are times that dinner takes longer than you thought it would or you’re in such good conversation with friends that the kids get antsy. THIS is when my kids were allowed to play educational games on the phone. These are the moments when electronics come in so handy.
Detoxing from anything is difficult, but with time and consistency, it’s attainable. This is no different from a sugar or caffeine detox. Stick with it and your family will be enjoying meals and conversations you never expected. Also, if you’re out to dinner with friends, and their kids are on electronics (we’ve all been there), gently and QUIETLY remind your kids that there is plenty to do in their bag without them needing an electronic. It stinks, but that’s life. Everyone does something different from your family and that’s ok!
As my kids are now 10 and 8, we bring cards to pass the time. The laughter, talking, and eye-contact are worth every minute of training we did when they were toddlers. Electronics aren’t even an issue.