Tips and Tricks on How to Dine Out with Kids
Dining out with kids is no walk in the park. When parents take their children out to eat, they have to work around nap times, tantrums and unreasonable behavior. Kids are antsy, impatient and typically picky about their food. It’s usually easier to just stay home and avoid the headache, or hire a babysitter. But with the right preparations, taking your children out to eat is possible.
Before you leave the house to eat dinner at any restaurant, check the clock. Never attempt a meal if you are edging close to bedtime or nap time. Toddlers and small children have very little self control, and if you bring them out to eat when they are tired, behavior is much more likely to be difficult. Always opt for earlier dinners when wait times at restaurants are minimal and your children are not overtired.
Always choose a restaurant that is casual, and one that serves kid’s fare. Children tend to be very finicky eaters, and you will be grateful their milk has a lid when they reach for that crayon. Children are also very messy, and it’s very stressful to worry about mess and noise if you are in a restaurant that is upscale. If you choose a casual establishment, you are more likely to enjoy your meal and find dinner and drink options that will please your children.
Before you load your kids into the car for dinner or lunch, make sure they are not starving. You may not find a meal on the menu that pleases your child. Kids change their meal preferences on a daily basis. One day they love oatmeal, the next they won’t even take a bite. Before dining out, you may want to feed them a healthy dinner at home. It’s very common for kids to beg for grilled cheese and then refuse to eat it because the cheese it the wrong color. Or to claim they are starving for pasta until the waitress places it in front of them and it’s the wrong shape. Save yourself the frustration and bring your child to a restaurant well fed. This gives you the option to have them share a meal with a sibling or parent. Not only will you save money, your child is less likely to have a meltdown if they aren’t starving.
If you have healthy, more adventurous eaters, ordering food may be the least of your worries. However, you should still bring a few snacks to ward off hunger tantrums in case the food takes a while. Always pack crackers, dry cereal or sliced fruit in your bag before leaving for a restaurant.
Along with a few snacks, it’s a good idea to have a bag with small toys and coloring supplies when you dine out. Keep this bag in your car or in the closet at home, and reserve it only for restaurants. These items become a novelty, and will be special treat for your child while they wait for their food. Every few months, replace the items in the bag with new ones. Always keep your eyes peeled for small coloring packs and toys on clearance when you are out shopping.
Tips to remember before you take your kids out to dinner:
- Aim to eat before the dinnertime rush. If you are going out to lunch, avoid the noontime crowd.
- Choose a casual restaurant. Fancy establishments will be stressful with young children. You are also more likely to find meals to please young palates when restaurants are child friendly.
- Don’t expect your child to sit for hours. Sit down and be prepared to order your food when your waitress returns with your drinks.
- Don’t bring your child to any restaurant overtired or extremely hungry. You are more likely to experience tantrums and disgruntled behavior.
- Always bring a “bag of tricks.” Think coloring books, small cars, trains, dolls or even travel sized playdoh. Be respectful and always clean your mess when your child is finished eating.
- Be patient. If all else fails, take your food to go.
If you plan ahead, taking your children out to eat is easier than you think. Always remind them to keep their voices down and take the opportunity to teach them good manners. If you are vigilant about their behavior, and remember to prepare for meals out, you may even find dining out with kids enjoyable.
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This post was written by Rick Magennis