Dining out with kids can be a fun family activity, it can also be a nightmare. If you’ve ever been stuck in a booth near a screaming toddler throwing crayons, tipping over water and generally making a ruckus, you know if can be difficult to enjoy a meal in the presence of little ones.
But, don’t let fear of interrupting your neighbors prevent you from ever venturing out into the world of dining. You can take your kids out to dinner, at a restaurant without a Play Place, and keep your sanity intact. Here are a few tips to ensuring your meal out is a hit:
Choose the appropriate restaurant:
No, you don’t have to hit up the golden arches every time you want a meal, but you should avoid extremely fancy restaurants with young children. Not only do these restaurants rarely have children’s menus, these settings are not appropriate for toddlers. Between expensive dinnerware and guests forking out a pretty penny for their food, you’ll get more evil stares when you bring a toddler to one of these restaurants than a skinny person at a fat convention. I’ve taken our girls to Olive Garden and Red Lobster with few problems.
Practice at home:
Before you head out to dine at a restaurant talk to your little one about eating out in a special place. Let them know it’s a treat and that they are expected to behave. Practice sitting still, ordering and waiting for the meal.
Bring a distraction:
Most restaurant offer some type of child’s menu- usually complete with crayons and activities. But, these rarely last more than a few minutes. You may want to bring a small toy or book to keep your child occupied while they are waiting for their food.
I’ve seen many a parent ignore their child while they run through the table of a restaurant. So not cool. If your little one is getting antsy, take them on a walk. You can explore the restaurant together and point out cool pictures and shapes or you can even step outside and let them go a little crazier. Have someone waiting at the table give your cell phone a call when the food arrives.
Go at an off time:
Not only will you miss the long waits, you can avoid large crowds, which also means fewer people to annoy. If you are headed out for lunch, try to slip in around 11:00 a.m. or after 1:30. The crowds will be much lighter. If you want to enjoy dinner out, hit the restaurants around 4:00 or after 7:00. Crowds get really heavy between 5:00 and 6:30, especially on the weekends.
If your toddler has a hissy fit or drops their water, take a deep breathe, offer an apologetic smile to the guests next to you and clean up the mess. No matter how hard you try, not every outing will be perfect. Enjoy spending time together as a family and give your kids (and yourself) a little wiggle room.
Have you run into problems while dining out with the kids?
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