Tips for Dining Out with Kids
This section is intended to provide for you tips and advice for choosing an appropriate restaurant when eating out with infants, babies, toddlers and older children. A goal of having a pleasant meal with your family, enjoying a glass of wine (not chugging it while packing up a screaming child), while at the same time helping your child learn appropriate restaurant behavior, can be realistic. Stay with me here because I know some of your may be shaking your heads or laughing hysterically by now.
Do Your Research
Spend a few minutes doing some research on where you are going to eat. While there are many restaurant review websites out there, yelp.com is one of the best for getting information on restaurants that are “good for kids”. Use this filter, and others (including price, neighborhood etc) to find exactly what you are looking for. You can also do a search for lists of top family friendly restaurants like this list of the top family-friendly rooftop bars and restaurants. Do not be limited by this however, as there are some additional suggestions below on finding somewhere appropriate to eat.
Choose restaurants that fall in to one or more of the following categories:
- Are lively and loud.
- Have live music – to mask screeching child sounds and provide a distraction.
- Have access to somewhere to walk/run around (on the beach, on a patio etc.)
- Are in a hotel – most hotel restaurants are very used to catering to families.
- Have high chairs or booster seats – if they have them, they want your business.
- Are of an ethnicity that welcomes children such as Asian, Central or South American or Italian – formal French is probably not the best choice.
Avoid restaurants that fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Have a 10 course tasting menu – honestly do you really want to go there with a child anyway?
- Look like somewhere you might take someone on a romantic date or to propose.
- Have white table linens, more glasses than people and more forks than you know what to do with.
- Have employees who look at you as if you have two heads when you request a high chair.
Pack with you a restaurant activity kit that fits in a reusable bag that is ready to grab-and-go.
- Several activities (coloring, puzzles, etc.)
- An iPad or iTouch or Kids Tablet.
- A tablet stand.
- Child sized headphones.
Also consider these dining supplies:
- A sippy cup or bottle.
- A pacifier (for a wee one).
- Toddler-sized cutlery.
- Disposable Paper Bibs* or wipe-clean bibs.
- Hand/face wipes.
- Food Catching Placemat
* In a pinch, you could “borrow” a couple paper bibs from your nearest IKEA restaurant.
Almost any restaurant will welcome a family at 5:30. No waiting for a table, faster service, usually no reservations required and less stress since there will be fewer patrons. The added bonus is that you can still get your child to bed on time.
Request a table that is away from other patrons. This little detail allows you to relax a little knowing that should your little one have some bad moments, they are unlikely to bother anyone.
Clear the Table
Remove any excess cutlery and glasses. All children want to clang on their glass with a steak knife. While this may be charming to you as the parent, I assure you it is less charming to other people. On that note, remove or extinguish all fire sources on the table. I’m in my late thirties and I still find fire intriguing. Imagine how a baby or toddler must feel about it.
Feed Them First
Do not make your little one wait for food. Order their food first (or feed them their bottle or baby food) so they are not left hungry. If the restaurant does not have a kids menu, ask if they are able to prepare anything special for kids (many are used to this request). Furthermore try finger food that takes a long time to eat…edamame, yam fries etc. With a full belly, they will have a much greater ability to focus on an activity while ideally you enjoy your meal.
The Last Resort
If all else fails, resort to the age old bribery method. “How about a bowl of ice cream if you can stay still for 10 more minutes”. Not ideal, but at least you didn’t start here.