family playing waiting games while waiting for food at the restaurant
Behavior,  Coping Skills,  Parenting

Waiting Games: 20+ Fun Ideas to Pass Time Waiting in Line, Traveling or at a Restaurant

Waiting Games: In this post, we will share 20+ fun ideas of games to play while waiting in line, at the restaurant table while waiting for food, or on a road trip.

Our kids’ everyday life is filled with situations when they need to wait:

  • When time is required for something to happen:
    • food is still in the oven
    • a friend is coming for a playdate
    • we are waiting at our table at a restaurant
    • we are on a road trip
    • we are waiting for a movie to start
  • When we are in the middle of a conversation
    • we need to wait for our turn to talk/kids are learning not to interrupt 
  • Playing games
    • learning to wait for your turn
  • In school/social situations -> waiting in line, waiting for the teacher to give instructions.

There are very useful ideas and strategies to teach kids to wait 👈 this post includes specific strategies that will help kids with special needs, autism, or ADHD.

One of these strategies is finding distractions that take our kids’ minds from the waiting situation.

Waiting games are a great help when you are waiting in line at the supermarket, at a restaurant waiting for your food to arrive, or on a road trip with lots of miles ahead of you.

So, let’s start our “waiting games” brainstorming session! 

kids playing a board game _ 20 waiting games ideas

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Games to Play While Waiting / Games to Pass Time

  1. 20 Questions
    Do you remember this game? Pick a topic, an object, a character, a person- anything! Then everyone gets to ask 20 questions to figure it out.
    An example:
    Leader: Has the secret object (Mickey Mouse)
    Everyone else: asks generic questions to narrow down the possibilities until they can guess. They only get 20 questions though so they have to be careful. They ask questions like “Is it a boy?” “Are they alive” “Can they be an animal?” until they can narrow it down. It’s fun! You should try it!
  2. Favorites Game
    This is a simple game that is perfect for entertaining kids while getting to know them better. Ask your kids what their favorite _____ is (it can be anything! Movie, color, animal…) and let the conversation carry on from there.
  3. Build a Story
    This was one of my favorite waiting games as a kid! Everyone in your group goes in a circle and adds one line to a story that builds upon itself. Everyone gets a chance to be creative and it can take up a lot of time.
  4. Alphabet Memory Game
    This is a great game to help build your kids’ memory and patience skills.
    You start with a simple phrase like “I went to the store and I bought an ____ (something that starts with the letter A).
    The next person in line says what you said, but adds on with another item that starts with the letter B.
    This goes on until someone cannot remember then you start over!
  5. Fidget Toy Set
    Pack along this 8 piece fidget toy set to help kids pass the time while waiting. This kit comes with a variety of toys to entertain even the most impatient of children.

Games To Play at a Restaurant

These games are great to play at the table while waiting for food.

You can play these games at a restaurant or at home, wherever you need to distract the hungry monsters from the food not yet having arrived.

The following games only require simple supplies that you can easily fit in your bag or backpack 👍

  1. Coloring Contest
    All you need here is a few art supplies!
  2. Tic Tac Toe
    Grab a pen from your bag or borrow one from the waitress and use a napkin for this simple game.
    The first player to line up three in a row wins!
    an example of the tic tac toe game
  3. Bananagrams
    I’ve often seen families play this classic word game to entertain their kids while waiting for dinner!
    The entire game is compact (the size of a banana) and it’s all about thinking quickly while creating words with your letter squares.
  4. Handwriting Practice
    Bringing along a few worksheets and pencils to let their kids practice their handwriting.
    This is a great activity that is quiet and ideal for passing time at a table with young kids.
    Choose some fun topic so that it doesn’t feel like homework
    “Let’s write our own menu, write as many things as you can see in the restaurant that are “X” color”.
    Or even better, practice some affirmations with these letter-tracing affirmation worksheets 😉.
    You know your own kids better than anybody so you will find something fun for them to write.
  5. Mad Libs
    These books are always fun, pass the time, and build connections between you and your kids while you wait. I pack whatever Mad Libs book that is age-appropriate (they have them all the way down to age 3!) and let the fun begin.
  6. Look and Find Books
    There are dozens of Look and Find Books designed for just about any age. I have found that keeping a few in my bag has helped me countless times occupying my kids. If you can find an awesome set for kids like this Disney Princess one on Amazon, then you will be able to entertain your kids from anywhere.
  7. Fidget Block
    For some kids that get uncomfortable in new environments, a tool like a fidget block can help calm them. It works by occupying the busy part of the brain so that you can remain calm and stay focused. I try to keep one in my bag, especially when we go out to eat.
  8. Magnetic Board Games / Travel-size board games
    We never travel without our magnetic board games (we are long-haul travelers 😊). These are also a great option when you are waiting for your food. 

Games To Play While Waiting in Line

Is the supermarket line long and slow? You may need to come up with fun ideas (no materials required!) to help you navigate this waiting time.

These games will keep your kids busy while queueing:

  1. Would you rather?
    This is one of my family’s favorite waiting games! Pick two options and everyone has to choose and why. So the options are things like ‘would you rather live under the ocean on the moon’. You’ll learn a lot about each other and have a great laugh- I promise.
  2. Rock, Paper, Scissors
    You know the game and the rules are simple- rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock! This simple hand game is perfect for entertaining young kids and developing hand-eye coordination at the same time.
    fun game to play while waiting rock scissors paper rules
  3. Eye Spy
    This is the perfect game for almost any age! Have one person spy an object of a certain color and the rest of the team will guess.
  4. Plan the Next Trip
    One of the best ways to distract your family from the long wait is to talk about the next part of the trip.
    Let’s say you are waiting in a long line at an amusement park- talk about what you all can do next! Grab lunch, pick the next ride, or grab a spot for the parade.
  5. Tell Jokes
    Knock Knock jokes are a big hit with kids in early elementary and it only grows from there!
    Pack a joke book to read with your kids while you wait.
  6. Snack
    If you have kids with you, always pack a snack! It’s like one of those scientific laws that can’t be defined but is always true- kids always need a snack when they are waiting.

Games to Teach Patience for the Future

  1. Red Light, Green Light
    This classic game is helpful for instilling patience and it burns a lot of energy. 
    When your child hears the words “Green light” they can move forward, but when they hear “Red light” they must freeze.
  2. Spoon and Egg Game
    This outdoor game is super fun and teaches an important lesson- the fastest isn’t always the best.
    You walk from point A to point B holding an egg with a spoon. In order to win, you cannot drop the egg and you must cross the finish line first!
  3. The Waiting Game
    This is a perfect game to play to help children develop their patience. To play, you need a timer and some sort of reward (chocolate, a park trip, bubble bath- anything!). You tell the kids if they can wait for a certain amount of time by displaying patient behavior then they receive the reward.
  4. Simon Says
    Another classic game that requires patience and teaches how to listen to instructions. Play this game in the car, the living room, the grocery store checkout line… anywhere!

Enough ideas to have fun while waiting?

For evidence-based strategies to help kids learn waiting skills and increasing the waiting time tolerance ➡️ 15 Useful Strategies to Learn Waiting Skills (it includes downloadable wait cards)

Other Games to Help Coping Skills Development

 
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Family playing games while waiting in line at the supermarket
 
 
 
 

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