Preview: Games to play with kids when they have to wait in a restaurant, a waiting room or any time you want to bond and build life skills with your child!
I had the honor of partnering with Genius of Play on this post to help bring awareness to the many benefits of play!
“Are we there yet?” “When is the food coming?” “Is it time now?” Sound familiar? These are the infamous battle cries of a child who has to wait.
Waiting is a part of life. Not usually a fun part, and especially so if you are a parent. Whether it be a doctor’s office waiting room, sitting at the table in a restaurant, or taking a road trip, having to sit in a confined space with kids – who are not designed to sit still- can often be a challenge for both kids and parents.
With a few tricks up your sleeve and some additional information on the of the benefits of play, the time spent waiting might be your new favorite time to spend with your kids!
How to handle the time when you’re waiting with kids
Don’t look at it as waiting. Look at it as an opportunity to bond with your kids- distraction free. Being “stuck” in a waiting room with your kids means no one can run out the door or be distracted by video games. You can use this time to play games and do a little family bonding.
It may be surprising how valuable play really is to your child. I just read on The Genius of Play website that there are actually 6 benefits that “all play an important role in raising well-rounded children”. I knew that play was an important part of childhood but I never realized how many of their life skills develope through play.
Now, instead of trying to reassure my kids that the food is coming soon or the doctor will be right in, I try to use the time to play a few games and keep us all engaged. I take 3 kids under 6 years-old in restaurants. These games are as much play for them as they are survival for me!
5 Games to play with kids when they have to wait
What’s missing– This game is perfect for restaurants but could be adapted for a waiting room. One person starts as “it” and selects a few items from the table and puts them in the center. Everyone else closes their eyes and the person who is “it” removes one of the items. When everyone opens their eyes, they must guess which item is missing. The first person to guess the right answer gets a turn to be “it”! If you are in a waiting room, try using a few magazines or items from your bag to make a pile of objects.
I Spy– This may be an old game but it has been passed down through generations for good reason. It is a fun game that holds a child’s attention and it can be played anywhere. It also helps teach object recognition, identifying colors, and improves cognitive abilities as kids explore their space. By getting to pick their own objects, they are using planning skills and building independence. Did you ever think waiting for a dentist appointment could be so valuable?!
Thumb Wars- This is another great game to play anywhere since you carry the tools around right in your hand ;). Thumb Wars is an entertaining way to pass the time and build fine motor skills but did you also know that you are helping your child develop emotional coping skills when they win or lose the game? Parenting win. The object of the game is to “pin” down your opponent’s thumb with your own (I actually had to look it to be sure I remembered correctly!). 1,2,3,4, I declare a thumb war!
Listen to this– Have the kids close their eyes. Use something from the table/room to make a noise. In a restaurant, try shaking a sugar packet, tap some utensils together, or stir your drink. In a waiting room, you could rustle a magazine or stomp your feet. The first person who guesses what made the noise gets to take a turn as the noise maker!
Chicken Scratch– This is my favorite game to play with my kids in the doctor’s office. There is a giant roll of paper at our disposal so it keeps the kids busy and I love listening to them laugh! Grab a pen and try to draw their favorite cartoon character. If you don’t feel very artistic, good! The worse the drawing, the more fun the guessing can be. Keep drawing new characters, family pet, friends’ faces, etc until the doctor comes in or your food gets to the table. Who do you think will laugh more, you or the kids?!
It’s funny to think that waiting can actually be fun and beneficial, but it really changes the whole family mood when everyone is giggling and deciding which game to play next!
A few bonus tips if you run out of games or get stuck in the car:
- If there aren’t any books available, try listening to an audiobook together. This is a great time to enjoy your favorite classic stories with your kids!
- Tell them stories about when you were a kid. I recently discovered my kids have NO idea how to work a landline phone. They also can’t believe we only got to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings. I bet there are a few things your kids don’t know about you. This is a wonderful way to build strong family connections.
- Give everyone grace if the kids start to get antsy. Even after you have tried all the games in your toolbox, your kids may still get bored and want to go. Kids are innocently human and their tolerance for sitting still is low. Give hugs and try asking for more information from the staff on when the waiting might end.
If you are looking for more play ideas, check out the Genius of Play site for tons of fun playful ideas! I love that you can search by age, benefit, and even prep time. You can also follow The Genius of Play on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest to find more play inspiration and learn more about the benefits of play.
I bet you can’t wait for that next dentist appointment so you can try out these waiting games with your kids 😉