Sometimes parents just want to dine out for a change of pace and a break from cooking, but with young kids it can be a daunting thought. Fear of the dreaded melt down, thrown food, and top of the lungs “talking” are all reasons why some parents avoid taking the plunge. If this sounds familiar, then don’t despair, here are five tips for dining out with kids that will help you prepare and avert disaster!
1. Time it Perfectly: Eat early to avoid the 8PM “restaurant rush hour”. Less people and noise in the restaurant at earlier seatings cut down on kid distractions. Also, earlier in the night the wait staff and kitchen move quicker, which helps keep your meal on a good pace without (dangerous) time gaps that are harder to avoid when the place gets packed.
2. Do Some Reconnaissance: Call ahead to find out vital information and to make helpful arrangements. Try to avoid, if possible, being on top of other people by requesting an out of the way table in the back of the restaurant. Ask for a high chair to be set up in advance of your arrival; the less time you and your kids have to wait around, the better! Those few moments waiting for the high chair to be delivered can feel like a lifetime! Ask if they have a kids menu to ensure that there will be options your kids like. You may want to test drive a more casual restaurant that you know is kid friendly first, then work your way up to “fine” dining.
3. Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk: Don’t let yourself get overly stressed about the spill that will most likely happen at dinner. Restaurant glasses are much larger than the ones kids are used to; bring a sippy-cup along with you or ask your waiter for a to-go cup with a lid and straw.
4. Pack A Goodie Bag: Not all restaurants have paper place mats and crayons at the ready, so come prepared. Bring a notepad and crayons, a few books, or even some origami–these are all great activates that are quiet and calm, work on a small surface, and don’t have lots of pieces to keep track of. If going out for a meal is a common occurrence for your family, put together a restaurant activity bag that’s packed and ready to go at all times.
5. Let Them Eat Cake: It’s a special occasion for everyone, the kiddos too. So, if your little ones had a good night, let them pick something off the dessert menu to help them feel proud of their behavior. The treat will help keep them pleasantly focused and also provide a bit of positive enforcement that going out is a special privilege.
Do you have any other tricks for a successful meal out with the family? Please share!
Today’s guest blogger is Shana, a keen crafter, mac & cheese maker, boo-boo kisser and a big kid at heart! After college, she landed her dream job designing toys, creating fun products for boys and girls. We’re fortunate to have her share her creative ideas on the ALEX blog!