How to Enjoy Eating at Restaurants with Your Kids

We recently discussed tips on how to get your kids to try new foods and expand their food horizons. And we hope that’s going well for you.

And now, we pose a different kiddo food challenge that young parents all over the world face: eating out at a restaurant with your children.

It can be tricky. There can be spills, splatters, screaming and many other circumstances that make your meal—and other patrons’ meals—very unpleasant. And you’ll be longing for the pizza delivery option.

But have no fear. It can be done. You just have to be prepared.

Step 1. Make sure the restaurant you’re looking to dine at welcomes children. In larger cities, not all are kid friendly. Then, before you arrive, check to make sure that their menu has kid friendly food.

Step 2. Take baby steps (not literally). If this is your first time eating out with your children, try just one course (skip appetizers, dessert, and after dinner drinks). Gauge your child and how they are doing throughout the meal, and realize when they’ll soon need to leave.

Step 3. Pick a kid friendly time. This may seem obvious, but a tired child is a cranky child. Hit up your restaurant earlier rather than later to ensure that your child won’t be sleepy and grumpy—if a 5 or 5:30 reservation means staying in sync with their usual schedule, it’s worth being there early. Plus, the restaurant will be less busy so you’ll be less likely to disturb others and the wait staff will likely have more patience early on in their evening.

Step 4. Distractions. Small books, crayons and a coloring book or a couple of toys can ease boredom and restlessness. Be sure to pack a few different options. However, we’d advise against noise-making electronics such as iPads, DS games or other tablets, to ensure that your kids aren’t ruining the ambience of the restaurant for other early eaters.

Step 5. Set clear expectations. Be sure that your kids know how to behave in a restaurant. No running, shouting or throwing food should be tolerated. The “they’re just kids” excuse does little for others. They should be able to keep their noise level down, use good manners and eat with utensils.

Step 6. Remember to enjoy the experience. It won’t be long until your kids outgrow the age of having to be explained “proper restaurant behavior.” Embrace this challenge as one of the funny parent milestones you get to endure with your little ones. Don’t get too stressed out about the experience, and try to enjoy this time out with your family.