What are the best ways to keep kids entertained & well-behaved at a formal event or luncheon such as wedding?
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Keep kids occupied at a wedding by giving them jobs. There's no reason little ones can't be ushers, pass out favors, or provide entertainment while the DJ is on break. Better yet, loan them out to the singles table as dance partners.
My fiance and I are currently planning our wedding and we have already assigned our daughter a very special job: flower girl. Hopefully that long walk down the aisle will wear her out and she'll just nap adorably for the rest of the wedding.
Every child is different and there is no "one way" to make them all happy. If your child is participating in a special occassion, be prepared and plan ahead. Pack a few well selected toys to keep them occupied and entertained and some snacks to control grumpiness. Also take into consideration if the event is occuring during your child's nap time and have alternate plans in the event that the child is unable to continue participating in the event.
We pack an arsenal of entertainment options: snacks, books, toys, a portable dvd player, and a few surprise toys/books/craft items that the kids haven't seen before.
My twins are 4 years old, and ideally the host who's invited you - knowing that you'll be brining small children along - will have a small room/corner set up with a child-minder.
At my cousin's bat mitzvah, my aunt had just such a room set up with a pre-k teacher (certified by the state) to look after all the children (about 10 of them).
My girls love to dance, so I have told them that there is "sitting time" followed by "dancing time". For sitting time, we bring a book to read quietly, or coloring pages, and of course a snack with water, just in case. Before the first wedding they went to, I held a practice one at home. Their loveys got married and held a tea party with dancing after, and we watched an episode of Little Bear that shows two skunks getting married. It helped them to have some knowledge of what would happen going into the real event.
Packing little things and bringing them out at a paced out rate is a good practice. If the time to sit still was an hour, I would pack little things hidden away in my purse and bring them out every 15 minutes - there were known rules that I followed like not whining for another etc.
I'm a Mom to boy-girl twins and because our son has special needs, I am an expert at preparing for events, weddings, and more. My secret: I create a fun book that details the day. Here's how:
1. Get on the computer or grab some markers and papers. Write a descriptive title such as "Auntie Lisa's Wedding Story"
2. Using fun images and a rough schedule -- map out the day with visuals and a little text. You can be as specific as you'd like (starting with wake up, have breakfast get dressed) or you can simply feature the event
3. Let your son or daughter help with the story! And don't forget to include incentives in it such as "After the wedding ceremony, Mom will give us special snacks." OR "If we have quiet mouths and quiet hands during the toast, Mom will give us a small present" (the present is usually a new book or coloring stuff -- something small but that will engage the kiddos)
4. Finally, bring the book with you and use it to guide your children through the day and help the little ones mark time (which is so hard for kids)
This can also work with older children -- make more of a schedule and use time so he or she can follow along on a clock when necessary and wrap up the day with a big reward like movie night or a special dinner or activity.
My last bit of advice: I always make sure my twins know we can "take a break" and go outside or to a quiet spot if they need a moment to refresh or a minute of Mommy attention. And I involve them in everything: reading the program, assisting with taking photos, picking out food to eat and finding a new friend if the event includes other children. Instant playdates are always fantastic to pass time.
PS: If all else fails, streaming movies on phones, tablets, etc can save the day!
As a Mom to six kids, I've always liked pipe cleaners. I used to give them to the kids on airplanes, road trips, church services, etc.
They foster creativity,
The possibilities of what you can do with them are endless,
They fit easily into a purse or diaper bag.
If we are going to a formal event or wedding and we know it will be a long day, I pack a little bag for my son. I fill it with a new coloring book, some crayons, a couple of cars, a few favorite books, and some snacks. I then bring things out a little at a time to keep him occupied and entertained. Having a variety of things to offer throughout the day usually keeps him happy and this in turn lets us relax and enjoy!
My daughter was a flower girl last fall at the ripe old age of three. I brought tons of snacks and some coloring books to keep her happy before the wedding and during the reception. I knew she wouldn't be able to wait for the buffet line to get going for dinner, and once a toddler is hungry they are very hard to keep quiet and still. Once the dancing started, she hit the dance floor and the photo booth for hours and it wasn't an issue.
Low expectations, an escape plan, and a bag full of surprises.
I pack stickers, paper, mini coloring books, crayons, silent toys, Dollar Store crafts (and a baggie to store them in), snacks and a reward chart for my kids when we go to something that is probably too fancy for them to be expected to behave at properly.
I also make sure they are dressed appropriately, but comfortably. Nothing makes a bored kit twitchier than an itchy dress or too-tight pants.
Try to make sure the child (children) has not skipped a nap and won't get hungry before the food is served. Many years ago my two year old had a complete melt down at my brother's wedding. Why - it was right in the middle of her afternoon nap, which she usually never missed. There wasn't really much I could do about it, and the option of not taking her wasn't there either. What a nightmare.
My second child's behavior used to go completely down the toilet when he was hungry so I learned always to have a filling snack with us.
I think the best way to keep younger kids quiet at a formal event is to give them something quiet to do. We love using busy bags. These bags are filled with quiet activities that keep a child's attention and they are able to do independantly and quietly. We include activities such as puzzles, coloring pages, magnetic scenes, learning activities such as sorting and counting, reading books, or picture books, flash cards, dress up dolls, drawing, felt story pieces, and I love using plastic animals or themes from the Safari Toobs that can be played with quietly.
We have a little suitcase that we bring to every event we go to. Each of them can choose 3 things to put in the suitcase, as long as they do not make noise. Usually, they make friends with other kids at the event because of this. They end up in a corner playing superheroes, Star Wars figures, or Power Rangers, depending on what they bring that day. Not only does it keep our kids busy, it keeps other kids busy too! One sure fire thing we do every time is feed them BEFORE we get in the car so they have full bellies. I never leave home without juice boxes and snacks for each of them - and a few extras too. I never rely on anyone to have what my kids need and it's never failed to come in handy!
There are times when you have to pull out the big guns - bring along their favorite person if possible, such as their grandma/grandpa. Also have the type of candy that takes kids a little bit of time to unopen (ie: starbursts, mini reeses pb cups) - for bribery. I have also brought the iPad with new downloaded games, and crossed my fingers that the volume didn't get turned up!
We were crazy enough to say "Yes" to our 4 four year old quadruplet boys being in a wedding. Surprisingly, with some planning and practice it went off without a hitch. My biggest tips were talking through the event - what to expect, how to behave, consequences of not behaving, etc. well before the ceremony starts. We reserve bribing for big deal events like this one - so the wedding cake and a Dollar Store surprise for the wedding reception were waiting for those who did their best. Take snacks and quiet activities to hold them over if things go longer than expected, and plan an escape path if necessary!
I took my 20 month old to an event and I packed a Dora activity book with stickers during the ceremony she remained calm and quiet putting stickers all over the book. Nowadays ceremonies are not too long and it was enough time for it. I also packed some fresh fruit cups I made at home for her to eat while we waited for dinner to be served. Afterwards it was dancing and she was ready to move around and dance with everyone else.
Some of the best ways we've kept our kids behaving appropriately at formal events was to engage them and arrive prepared. At my brother's wedding (where all four of us where participants), we explained the different parts of the ceremony to my 4 yr old which made him interested in it. And afterwards, we encouraged him to dance, to play with relatives and friends, and to run (outside, when appropriate) so that he wasn't too antsy once we were seated. My younger son was not even 2 at that same wedding. Once he walked down the aisle, we knew he wasn't going to be able to sit for the long ceremony or during the reception. So we hired a babysitter, spoke to my brother about adjacent rooms, and set him up there with plenty of coloring books, games, balls, and movies to keep him content throughout the day. And, of course, he spent a great deal of time entertaining US during the cocktail hour and reception!
Definitely an arsenal of toys, books, snacks, video games. With my children they had game boys at a young age, and that definitely kept them entertained. :)
Practice ahead of time and bring a bag of tricks. Have your child sit at your kitchen table for 5 minutes to start with a simple toy (a quiet one!) or some coloring tools. Remind them they are to be quiet and sit still. At the end of 5 minutes, rave wildly and reward with some kind of little prize. Gradually increase the time each day or every other day until they are up to the general length of time for the luncheon or special event. If you can have other adults over while you are practicing, that's even better. Some fun toys we keep in our restaurant bag include a slinky, some flashcards, tiny figurines, crayons, and a little mirror.
In this day and age, an ipad works great here...with the sound off of course. Also bribes work well but honestly, I geared the kids up well before we had any such event to go to. So many times, children are allowed to go wild with no rules when with the parents or at home and are then expected to act differently in public. It doesn't work that way. Kids can learn early on about limits and what is expected of them. Yes, they will continue to test those limits, but if they don't know them in the first place....I think you get the picture!
I always make sure to bring things for them to keep them happy and well-behaved. We bring a couple of race cars for my son and my daughter usually brings a small doll or two. I also carry a pad of paper and/or a couple small coloring/activity books (they love mazes!) plus crayons for when they move on from the toys they brought. For longer events, like a wedding, we usually pick a few small books to bring as well.
If we still need things to do, because sometimes their attention span is shorter than normal, we play eye-spy, we sort and count things on the table and in the room and if necessary we go exploring.
Bring lots of snacks. And bribes help too. ;)
My favorite way to keep my children entertained (as they are 9, 4, and 2) is to bring a child size tote bag for each of them. Inside I pack games, coloring books, small toys, healthy snacks, and juice or water.
This way they can be occupied by a variety of items.
You can go to the dollar store to pick up the goodies. I think it is imporant that the items in the tote be new to them (holds their interest longer).
Plan ahead! Pack simple, non-messy snacks. Pack simple, non-noisy toys. And if those don't work, be prepared to make the self-less act of exiting the scene if the kids need a change of scenery. Motherhood only comes around once, and it doesn't always go as planned!
Hire a cute teenage/college age babysitter to hang out with them in a designated area! I hired a sitter, bought a few non-messy craft supplies and set up a little cocktail size table in one of the reception / hang out areas - so that the kids didn't feel out of the loop or away from the action but they had an activity and a grown up who would give them undivided attention. It was terrific - whenever I went to that area, they were all engrossed in playing together and doing a little project. Regardless it was like a home base for them and the parents generally always knew where they'd be.