Eating at restaurant with kids sounds like a great idea. There’s no food to prep, prepare and serve, no table to set, and the best part, no dishes to clean. However, while dining out is supposed to be a break, eating at a restaurant with little kids can be too stressful to be worth it. Before you throw in the towel on dining out with kids, check out these helpful tips for keeping kids entertained and well behaved in restaurants – along with a few guidelines for teaching young children good table manners.
Practice at home. Tell your kids what’s expected of them in a restaurant and hold them to it. Reward good behavior and let them know that bad behavior means they are not ready to go to a restaurant with you.
Keep kids in their seats. Make it a mandate. No one – not you, the other diners or the wait staff– wants to deal with kids running around the restaurant, climbing out of the booth or hanging on chairs. Kids running loose in a restaurant is dangerous, distracting to other diners and irritating to the restaurant staff.
Be prepared. Pack a small bag of activities to keep little ones busy until the food arrives. Crayons and a small notebook, small toys, and headphones for the iPhone (so no one else has to listen to Caillou) work well.
Be ready to leave if need be. If your baby or toddler has had enough and starts to scream or cause a commotion at your table, excuse yourself from the situation. Take her outside to cool off and enjoy a change of scenery, and then try again. If she’s still not having it, ask for a take-out container and call it a night. Other diners deserve to eat in peace.
Choose restaurants that are appropriate for young children. A good rule of thumb to follow is to let the restaurant determine the family-friendly factor. If it offers a children’s menu, it’s welcoming to little ones. If it doesn’t, it’s aiming to be an adults-only destination.
Use dining out as an opportunity to teach and reinforce table manners. Good table manners should start at home, but a restaurant is an ideal place to practice and demonstrate what’s expected in public. Basic table manners to teach young children, include:
- Chew with your mouth closed
- Put your napkin in your lap
- Eat small bites of food
- Use your silverware, not your hands
- Don’t slurp your drink
- Wait to be excused from the table before getting up from your chair
If you just don’t have it in you to take the kids out or have your heart set on a nice meal at a not so family-friendly spot, hire a sitter to feed the kids at home while you enjoy a peaceful, stress-free meal out on the town. There’s no substitute for a little time away!