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There are two universal truths in life: (1) kids hate waiting in line, and (2) sometimes, kids have to wait in line. And as much as kids hate waiting, it’s even worse for us parents because we have to endure both the waiting and the whining or misbehavior of our kids! The last thing we want to do is to bribe our kids by giving them a phone or tablet. So, how can you get your kids to wait patiently without putting a screen in front of their faces? Read on to find out how to help your kids wait in line without being a brat. And it doesn’t matter if you are waiting in line at Disney World, the grocery store, or the airport–these tricks will work! They really are game changers!
Trick #1: Look Around!
I know this comes as no surprise to you, but kids only focus on themselves. Because of this, when they are irritated about waiting in line, they only think about how bad it is to wait in line. So, the first trick to teaching kids to wait patiently is to get them to stop thinking about themselves and look around.
Now, if you are at Disneyland or Disney World, this will be easy because Disney is great at making lines fun. Some of them have interactive elements to play with. Most of them have interesting things to look at while you’re waiting.
But, even if you are waiting somewhere boring, like the bank, have your kids look around and tell you about something interesting that they see. Or, ask them questions about the things going on around you. If you are waiting near a window, have them look out (or in) the window to see what they can see.
Trick #2: Play a Game
Another way to help your kids wait in line is to play a game. If you kids aren’t interested in looking around while waiting in line, then play a game with them. There are several games that require no equipment that can be used to pass the time. These include 20 Questions, I Spy, Rock, Paper, Scissors, and my favorite, Color Cars.
Color Cars is a game I made up for my son several years ago that we still play when he gets tired of waiting. If you have a view of a street, use cars; otherwise, use people’s shirts. Basically, assign a point value to each color. Your child earns those points for each car (or shirt) of that color he spots. See how many points they can earn before reach the front of the line. If you have more than one child, see who can earn the most points while waiting. (This is also a sneaky way to get your kids to practice their math skills!)
Trick #3: Learn Something
Speaking of sneaky learning, another way to help your kids wait in line is to quiz them on something. For toddlers, have them practice counting or reciting the alphabet. You could also have them point out things of various colors. Older kids can work on spelling words, multiplication tables, or state capitals. Not only will this teach your children patience, but it will also teach them to be efficient with their time. I promise they will love not having to work on spelling words when they get home from running errands.
Trick #4: Make a Plan
Distract your kids while waiting by having them make a plan. If you are on vacation, have them plan out the next day’s activities. If you are at a Disney park, have them decide what to ride next. And if you are running errands, let them decide what to eat for dinner or what to watch on television later. You can even have them plan your next trip, their next birthday party, or their perfect vacation.
Trick #5: Tell a Story
Another way to help your kids wait in line is to tell stories. Tell them a story about when they were babies or when you were a child. Have them tell you a funny story from school. Or have them make up a story about someone you see waiting in line. It doesn’t matter what the story is , the point is to get them focused on something other than waiting.
Trick #6: Sing a Song
If your kids like to sing, have them sing a song to you while waiting. It can be a favorite song from the radio or a movie. Or, they can sing a silly song they made up. If you have older kids, play Name That Tune. Just remember not to sing too loudly! You don’t want to disturb those waiting around you!
Trick #7: Talk to Them
My last trick to help your kids wait in line is to simply talk to them. This will help pass the time and also give you some quality time with them. I find the easiest way to engage your kids in conversation is to ask them specific questions about things they are interested in. Good conversation starters are:
- What is your favorite video game and why?
- What would be the ultimate Christmas gift?
- Where should we go on our next vacation?
- What do you want to do for your birthday party this year?
- What’s activity have you always wanted to try?
- Relive favorite moments from past trips
- What type of food would you like to try sometime?
Waiting in line can be brutal for kids and parents, especially if the line is long or the location is boring. But, it doesn’t have to be! With the above tips and tricks, you should be able to help your kids wait in line without whining or misbehaving. With a little luck and these techniques, you can teach your children patience without them even realizing they’re learning! For more tips to help your kids while on the move, see our comprehensive guide to happy travel with kids, best airplane snacks, screen-free airplane activities, best road trip snacks, and screen-free road trip activities. Also see our other ways to prepare your kids for a Disney trip. Happy travels!