How to Survive Eating Out with Kids

Jennifer Buttner


March 13, 2014

eating out

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Do you dread the whole experience of going to a restaurant with kids? Are you ready to allow your children to eat out in public? Worried about possible toddler tantrums? Here’s How to Survive Eating Out with Kids.

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#1. Set Expectations

Before you ever leave the house, explain to your children what you expect from them in the restaurant, like sitting at the table, using their table manners, not messing with the food, indoor voices etc.

For younger kids, try and explain by way of demonstration. Do be aware though, that if your children wander from the table regularly at home, it can be difficult to expect them to sit at the table in the restaurant for the meal duration!

#2. Choose the Restaurant Wisely

It makes sense – go to a restaurant that welcomes kids and had kids menus. Hold off on visiting the fine dining restaurants until you know that your kids can behave in a restaurant.

You may also like What Makes a Restaurant Child-Friendly

#3. Timing

Time the trip to the restaurant so that kids are not over-tired or over-hungry. For babies and toddlers still napping, go when they have woken from their nap.

#4. Come Prepared

Bring distractions – your kids will not happily quietly sit for an hour or more, engaged in conversation with you! So pack whatever toys/distractions work for your kids. Most restaurants that are child-friendly will have paper, crayons for kids amusement. Also, here’s 13 Fun Games to Play while Waiting in a Restaurant.

#5. Table Choice

Try and get a table near other families, and near the restrooms (as you will most likely be visiting it regularly!). Ensure that you can get in and out of the table easily.

#6. Order Quickly and Wisely

  • Now is not the time for perusing the menu at leisure so order quickly. Neither is it the time to try introducing your kids to new foods – order what you know they will eat, for a more enjoyable experience for all.
  • Don’t order too much food and don’t let the kids have too many choices – you know best what, and how much, the kids will eat.
  • Ask the waiter/waitress to brings some bread and crackers to the table, as soon as possible.
  • This is also not the time for you parents to enjoy a 5 course meal! Perhaps order a starter that you can all share, or skip the starter altogether and just order main.
  • Don’t ask for the kids food to come quickly, unless they are already gnawing on the table! Otherwise they will be finished and getting restless before you have even gotten your food.
  • Ask your waiter/waitress to remove all surplus glassware from the table, and away from extending toddler and baby grasps.

#7. Be Patient & Calm

Try and be patient and calm – if Mum or Dad is stressed, the kids will sense this and act up in direct proportion! If one of the kids does start to have a meltdown, just remove them from the situation either outside, or to the toilets. Also be realistic – is it unfair to expect young toddlers to sit quietly for the duration of the meal – be prepared to go walkabouts with them, and if required, take this in turns between Mum and Dad.

#8. Order Dessert

Do allow the kids some treat/dessert, but do link it to their behaviour. Okay, yes, technically this is bribing, but the promise of a scoop of ice-cream at the end of the meal, can do wonders for their behaviour during the meal, and ensure a happier experience for all! After all, eating out at a restaurant is a treat, so allow them one.

You may also like 100 Kid Friendly Restaurants in Ireland

Over to you! Share your tips for eating out with kids in the comments below.


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