How To Take Children To A Restaurant Without It Being A Disaster

shutterstock_236885488I don’t mind the fact that happy hour isn’t the most kid-friendly of places, and I can cope with waiting for grown up movies like Magic Mike XXL to come out on DVD instead of seeing them in the theater. But the one luxury I refuse to give up on just because I have children is eating out in a restaurant.

Not having to cook dinner or clean up after a meal is an experience to cherish, and you don’t always need to find a sitter to pull it off. It’s important for kids to learn how to behave when eating out, and as long as you’re mindful of other people, and are willing to do some planning, there’s no reason not to take your kids out to eat on occasion.

It would be easy to wait until your children reach an age you deem “old enough” to eat out, but if you have multiple kids, you could be waiting a long time before the whole gang is old enough to head to Olive Garden. Better to have children grow up with the experience of eating meals out and learning the proper way to order, how to sit quietly, and how to behave in a restaurant then learn it all at once.

That doesn’t mean other people eating in the restaurant or the servers should have to bear the brunt of your kids’ learning experiences. When taking young kids out to eat, pick places that are family friendly. If they don’t have high chairs or a dedicated kids’ menu, save it for a date night so other adults can have the dining experience at that establishment they deserve.

Time your family meal appropriately. If you head out at six on a Saturday night, you can expect a long wait for a table, and a starving child who doesn’t want to sit still. That’s on you, not the hostess. Try lunch instead or the early bird special for dinner. Consider seeing if the restaurant will let you call ahead to place your order so that it is waiting for you when you arrive to cut down on idle time.

Plan for success. If your child is new to drinking from a glass, pack a sippy cup with a straw. Have a snack on hand in case your kids aren’t enjoying their meal. Bring quiet toys to keep kids occupied during the meal as well as bibs and baby utensils if needed. Wipes are handy for cleaning up after the meal and an spare set of clothes is great in case of an accidental spill.

Finally,know when to fold them. Even if you try your best to make the experience a positive one, kids have bad days and sometimes they might not be able to handle eating out in a restaurant. If your child can’t be calmed down by taking a break outside for a few minutes or with a trip to the bathroom, it’s time to pack it up for the sake of your own sanity and that of your fellow diners. Have one parent take the kids to the car while the other takes care of getting the table as clean as possible, settling the bill and getting the food to go, and try again another day.

(Image: Monkey Business Images/

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