{organizing with style} Restaurant Kit Update: Dining Out with Kids

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

You've spoken, and I finally listened! For quite a while I've been receiving requests for an updated post on our restaurant kit now that the boys are a little bit older, so today I give you Restaurant Kit Version 2.0 - The Preschooler Edition.

Restaurant kit for dining out with kids

If you don't know what I'm talking about, let me quickly fill you in. A couple of years ago, when Beckett was 2 and Cooper was just 6 months old, I was that mom with the overstuffed diaper bag who still managed to not have everything I needed when we went out to a restaurant. I had diapers and wipes, but always managed to forget a bib, or a small spoon for the baby food. Never mind actually having a way to keep the kids entertained and on their best behavior.

And that's where our restaurant kit comes in. I re-purposed a makeup bag by filling it with all the essentials for dining out with an a baby and a toddler. Then seeing how much easier it made dining out, I quickly made a second, duplicate kit so that Scott and I could each keep one in our cars at all times. We eat out at least once a week, and over the last two years the restaurant kit has helped to make {almost} all of those meals stress-free. 

**This post contains some affiliate links. If you buy something that I recommend, you pay the same price, but I may receive a small commission.

Many of the original contents of our restaurant kit were geared toward the baby and toddler years, but as the boys have gotten a bit older, I've updated the kit to keep up with their changing needs and interests.

Let's start with the bag. The Elle makeup bag I bought at Kohls is no longer available, but I found a couple of very similar options for you, like this one and this one.

Restaurant kit for dining out with kids

Of course, you could pick up any kind of bag you'd like, but let me tell a little about the features of this bag that have worked so well for us: there are a total of four separate zippered pockets - two large ones on the outer edges of the case, as well as one on each side of the center section;  all of the pockets are clear, making it quick and easy to see what's inside; and the plastic coating on the outside makes it easy to keep clean, even on the floor of a restaurant or when it's been in sticky little hands. 

The size is also a perfect for my needs. It's large enough to pack a lot of function without taking up to much space on the table at a restaurant. When the boys were younger, the restaurant kit easily fit in our diaper bag. And now that I don't carry a diaper bag anymore, I can tuck it into the top of my purse, or the handles make it convenient to carry on it's own. This photo of the restaurant kit next to my purse should give you a better idea of the size of the makeup bag - not to big, not to small! 

Restaurant Kit for dining out with kids

Once you've picked out a bag for your restaurant kit, you'll be ready to fill it up with the items that your family needs to make dining out stress free. You know your kids best, so what works for my family may not be right for yours, but I'll walk you through the categories of items we keep in the restaurant kit for our preschoolers to give you some ideas. {If you are looking for content suggestions for babies and toddlers, you'll find a detailed list in my original restaurant kit post.}


These are the "essentials." The few items that I keep in the center pocket of our restaurant kit at all times.

Restaurant Kit suggested contents

(1) BIBS - They boys are pretty neat eaters these days, and don't require a bib at every meal, but I still keep two bibs in the restaurant kit at all times for those extra messy meals - like spaghetti and ramen. The ideal bibs for the restaurant kit are ones that can be quickly and easily wiped clean so they don't have to be carried home dirty.  But watch out, because many of the wipeable bibs you'll find are just fabric with a plastic coating. I've found those to be problematic, because once they are wet, the fabric backing can take quite a while to dry, and you definitely don't want to be zipping a wet big up in the plastic pockets of the restaurant kit. I prefer waterproof bibs that can be quickly wiped clean and dry, and a pocket to catch spills is an added bonus.

(2) WET WIPES - Wet wipes are a must for cleaning up sticky fingers and faces after a dinner out, so I love the conveniently sized packages of Wet Ones Hand Wipes.

(3) MINI SCISSORS - This one might seem strange at first, but I've found that a small pair of scissors comes in very handy! Very often, restaurants will bring out a short, kid-size cup with a full length straw. When this happens, my kids always end up tipping the cups and spilling! But my mini scissors solve this problem - I can simply trim the straw to the right length! I've also learned that scissors are often a much faster way to cut up food for kids, and they can especially be a life saver at when there is no knife on the table {like at Chinese restaurants that never seem to have knives}. I keep the scissors in a protective case, and never let the kids get their hands on them.

(4) BENDY STRAWS - Not all restaurants have kid-size cups, so bendy straws make it much easier for little ones to drink for large cups! Having straws on hand can also minimize spills with bottled milk and juice.


If Scott and I need time to look at the menu, we typically order the kids' meals first so that they will come out quicker. But even then, sometimes the food takes longer than you expect. For that reason, I always like to keep a few snacks in the restaurant kit. Since we keep the restaurant kit in the car at all times, the snacks also come in handy when we are out and about running errands.

Restaurant Kit suggested contents

Our go to snacks include:

(5) Applesauce Pouches

(6) Fruit Bites

(7) Peanut Butter Crackers

(8) Granola Bars


We like to keep a variety of activities in the restaurant kit - some that entertain the kids on their own, and others that are fun for the whole family, like simple card games. Of course, we don't keep all of these games in the restaurant kit all the time, but these are the types of cards that we rotate in and out of the kit.

Restaurant Kit suggested contents

(9) FLASH CARDS - I bought a set of Sesame Street flash cards: beginning words, alphabet, numbers, and shapes. I rotate different sets of flash cards into the restaurant kit to sneak a little education into our dinners out.

(10) SPOT IT! - Have you played Spot It? It's a great card game for the whole family, and comes in lots of varieties perfect for young kids, like Spot It Alphabet, Spot It Numbers & Shapes, and Spot It Jr. Animals.

(11) CARD GAMES - Classic card games like Old Maid and Go Fish are quick and easy, perfect for playing at the table while waiting for your food.

(12) MATCHING CARDS - The Target dollar section {now called Bullseye's Playground} is a great place to find small items perfect for a restaurant kit! I recently picked up two sets of animal and number matching cards that I know that boys are going to love.

(13) MINI GAMES - The "prizes" that come in kids meals are typically the bane of my existence {junky little toys that I have to sneak out of the house when the kids aren't looking}, but I have to hand it to Chick-FilA, they do a great job of giving out games and books that are actually worth holding on to - like these mini card games. Over the years, I've been putting these Chick-FilA prizes aside, and saving them for the Restaurant Kit.


While we enjoy having games that we can play with the kids, there are also times when it's nice to let the kids entertain themselves so that the adults can chat.

Restaurant Kit suggested contents

(14) Magnetic Sketch & Erase  - You can pick up these mini magnetic sketch & erase boards lots of places. I've seen them in the dollar section at Target and at the dollar store, and you can also find them online.

(15) Mini Puzzles - Beckett has gotten pretty good at puzzles, so these mini tin puzzles {which range from 24 to 50 pieces} are the perfect size for our restaurant kit. They feature all of his favorite characters, and they are a bargain at only $1.50 each, so if we end up loosing any pieces, it's not the end of the world to replace it with a new puzzle.

(16) Small Toys - Both of our boys love imaginary play, so small toys can often entertain them longer than anything else. Beckett is all about animals these days, and for Cooper it's cars! I buy these small figurines in sets of 12, and then put just a couple at a time in the restaurant kit, mixing them up and swapping them out frequently.

(17) Simple Puzzles - Cooper doesn't yet have the same puzzle skills as his older brother, but I recently found a set of simple four piece puzzles in the dollar section at Target that are perfect for him. These little puzzle strips focus on sequences, and best of all, they are all double sided, meaning double the fun!


Restaurant Kit suggested contents

(18) Coloring and Activity Books - I pick up small sized coloring and activity books any time I see them in the dollar section or on clearance. Dot to dots, mazes, tracing, and simple games keep kids entertained.

(19) Magic Ink Coloring - ImagineInk coloring books come with one marker that makes all the colors appear on the page. I picked up a few of these recently, and they are great, mess free activity for restaurants, and they are especially satisfying for kids who haven't yet mastered coloring inside the lines.

(20) Dry Erase Tracing - These small Leap Frog dry erase tracing books are perfect for preschoolers, and come in both numbers and letters. They come with a small dry erase marker with a built in eraser, making it super convenient for restaurants.

(21) Brain Games Books - This is another addition to our restaurant kit that is thanks to Chick-FilA. On more than one occasion, we've received these small-sized versions of Brain Games activity books as the kid's meal prize. Chick-FilA often gives out books, so be sure to save them!

(22) Crayons or Colored Pencils - While many restaurants have crayons for kids, they often only give you three or four colors, which can be frustrating for kids who have learned their colors and wants the "right" colors for the picture.  I like the Crayola Twistable Crayons because they require no peeling or sharpening, and because they are durable and don't snap in little hands. While my boys prefer coloring with crayons over colored pencils, consider the temperatures where you live. In Colorado, I can leave these crayons in the restaurant kit in my car year round and, as long as it's in the shade, I don't have issues with melting. But if you live in a very hot climate and plan to leave the kit in the car, Crayola Twistable Colored Pencils {also no sharpening necessary} might be a better option.

(23) Sticker Books - Kids love stickers, so small sticker books are always another great way to keep kids engaged. 

Of course, not all of these items fit in our restaurant kit at one time, but we've found that variety is the key to keeping kids entertained and engaged time after time. I pack the two restaurant kits {which Scott and I keep in our cars at all time} with different items, and then I keep a bin full of extras in the house so that we can swap things out and mix it up on a regular basis. I'm always on the lookout for new additions to add to the bin for the future.

Restaurant Kit for Dining Out with Kids

Despite the small scale of the makeup bag that I use for the restaurant kit, I am able to pack quite a bit inside. I use one side for the games, toys and activity books...

Restaurant Kit for Dining Out with Kids

...and I used the other side for snacks. The center pocket holds all of our "essentials."

Restaurant Kit for Dining Out with Kids

We don't know what we would do without our restaurant kit! It makes eating out so much less stressful and more enjoyable, for us and the kids alike! Need one for your family? Or know someone who does? Be sure to pin the image below so that you can find this list of suggested contents again when the time is right!

Restaurant Kit for Eating Out with Kids

I'm sure we'll be rethinking the contents again in a couple of years as the kids get older, and I'll updated you again when that time comes.

Linked up at Remodelaholic


  1. I love this! This is perfect for even my boys (9 and 7) if there is slow service or any wait at a restaurant. Shared on my Facebook page!

  2. I'm a missionary living in South Africa. Most restaurants here do not have kid seats, menus, cups, or anything else. When we are in the States, we are often having meals with pastors or supporters that require parents to be able to pay attention to adult conversation. I always keep a few of these items in my diaper bag, but this year I will be travelling with a 4-yr-old and a 1-yr-old. I love the organisational aspect of your restaurant kits -and the "always ready" aspect. I will definitely be using many of your ideas -and probably combining the toddler and preschool ideas! I hate the idea of handing my kid a phone or an ipad that completely disengages them, but I don't want them (or me) completely engaged for every part of the meal conversation either. This busy bag is perfect. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love this idea. I found a similar bag at Target (http://www.target.com/p/orla-kiely-tall-flower-weekender-cosmetic-bag/-/A-50704462) that holds quite a bit. We don't go out to eat often, but will take this when we do. In the meantime, it will be my 3 year old's activity and snack bag for any time she spends at the hospital while we await the delivery of our next little one. :) Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great! Great idea! I'm a grandma of a 2-year old and a new infant, and I watch the kids a lot. I already pack these kinds of items plus the utensils and such, similar to your toddler kit, but put them in separate zippered baggies and dump all into a backpack. It works but I have to go rooting around in the backpack to find certain things. This separation is so awesome! I'm off to hunt for a makeup bag... : ) Thanks for working this post up!

  5. Great! Great idea! I'm a grandma of a toddler and new infant, and watch the kids a lot. I already pack such a bag for eating out, but put separate items in zippered baggies and then dump all into a backpack. It's okay, but I have to go rooting around in the backpack to find certain things. This organization is awesome! Your busy bag is part of the kit! I'm off to find a makeup bag ... :) Thanks for posting!


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