My husband and I have sworn to never go out for a meal with our kids again. We say this every time we go out, and yet, we keep taking them with us! So over time, we’ve learned some things on our own and picked up some tips from other parents’ experiences about how to make dining out with kids a little more enjoyable for everyone.
Kid Friendly Food
If you have small children, or picky eaters, make sure you choose a restaurant with kid friendly food choices. Taking our kids out for sushi would never fly, so we make sure to dine out with them at places that serve things that they will eat…maybe that means “typical toddler food,” or maybe you have an adventurous eater. Either way, consider their preferences when choosing your location.
Keep Them Busy
Make sure you bring a few things to keep them busy between the time you order and the time the food arrives. Even waiting just 15 minutes can seem like a lifetime if you have hungry, antsy kids at the table with you. Bring a puzzle, some crayons and paper, toy cars, and maybe even a snack or two to keep them occupied while you wait.
Timing is Everything
Is it nap or bedtime? If so, don’t even attempt to take the kids out to eat! Make sure that you time your meals around your kids’ regular schedule. Also keep in mind when a restaurant’s busiest times are (the lunch rush and dinner time) and try to avoid going at those times.
If you can’t avoid going at busy times or when the kids should normally be napping, make sure to call ahead and make a reservation if possible. Let your waitress or waiter know you’re hoping to get in out and quickly as well – this will make their job easier too.
Finally, ask for your check as soon as you know you have everything you need. That way, as soon as you’re finished eating, you can pack up and leave.
Keep Your Cool
Kids spill. Kids make messes. Whatever happens at the table, don’t panic! It’s not the end of the world! You are not the only mom to ever have a child make a mess at the restaurant, I guarantee it. Remember that the more relaxed and calm you remain, the easier it is to deal with clean-ups or meltdowns.
Bribery Is Okay
Regardless of how you feel about bribery, it is sometimes okay to use it to get the kids to behave. If they sit quietly without jumping in and out of their chairs, eat most of their meals, mind their manners, and listen to your directions, why not let them have dessert. Also use dessert as a reminder that their good behavior will be rewarded.
Yes, you do have to do some prep before taking the kids out, and you do have to prepare yourself for the experience. Don’t be afraid to take them out, just be prepared for whatever might happen like a long wait or major spill. And don’t forget to do one final sweep before leaving to make sure you picked up everything – it’s easy to forget sippy cups or little toys at the end of the meal.
What would your #1 tip for dining out with kids be? I need all the advice I can get!