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Kids and Restaurants: 5 Tips to Eating Out With Kids

(And Enjoying It!)

  1. Start at home. Kids learn about table manners every time they sit down to eat. If you allow them to wander about with their apples and crawl under the table with their cup at home, you can’t expect much better in a restaurant. Sit down and eat with your kids, include them in the mealtime conversation, and teach them good manners at home. It transfers either way, I promise.
  2. Begin when they’re young. When your children are exposed to restaurant settings from an early age, they quickly understand how to behave in that environment. If the budget is tight, you can take them to Panera or another coffeehouse-type of restaurant, where you can enjoy a hot beverage and they can draw quietly with crayons. It’s the exposure–not necessarily having a full meal–that counts.
  3. Bring a bag of fun. Think about fun activities you can bring along to a restaurant and toss them into a spare bag. Cards, books of mazes, blank paper and crayons–anything your kids enjoy that can help them pass the time is fair game (except noise makers – that’s obvious, right?). The bag of tricks is there to help you, and will help your kids pass some of the time. It won’t, however, provide hours of solo entertainment. Most likely, you’ll be using that crayon to play tic-tac-toe. But that’s okay: this is a family meal out, not a date night. When you engage with your kids, they learn that they’re a part of this night out, too.
  4. Use common sense. Don’t visit your favorite 5-star restaurant or make reservations for 8:00PM. Hit Macaroni Grill and beat the 6:30 dinner crowd. You’ll all be much happier, trust me.
  5. Set expectations. Expectations are the key to happiness, for you and your kids.

  • For the kids: be sure they know ahead of time what you expect. Must they keep their voices down? Stay seated? Will you allow them to drink chocolate milk? Can they get fries? All of these things are important to address ahead of time, so there aren’t any big surprises at the restaurant. Surprises = Not Good.
  • For you and your spouse: this is not a romantic night out. It most likely won’t even be that relaxing, especially the first few times. But you won’t have to cook. Or clean. And after a few times your kids will be pros. Your reward? Years of fun dinners out with your kids = Priceless.
photo credits: Tanel & Lilla Coelho

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