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6 Tips For Surviving Dining Out With Kids

By November 2, 2015One Comment

little boy eating in restaurantThis is a serious conversation. Remember this past summer when that restaurant owner in Maine was so fed up that she yelled at a toddler? Having worked as a waitress for over ten years, I know firsthand how unruly kids can be. It’s frustrating for everyone in the general vicinity. However, as a mother of just over six years, I can’t imagine letting my child get so disruptive that someone would have to say something about his behavior—much less yell about it. Although everyone seems to have an opinion on who is to blame here, there’s one thing I know for sure: I can survive eating out with my kids, and you can too. Here’s how:

1. Always Come Prepared

Most parents never leave the house without a diaper bag completely full of extra outfits, books, toys and snacks, but not everyone thinks to pack these things when the diaper bag is no longer necessary. When you go out to eat with young kids, you’ll need plenty of distractions. Sit down with your little nugget and let them pick out their favorite quiet toys and books to play with and some light snacks like cheerios or dried fruit to put in a small backpack or travel bag. If you like to go out to eat spurr of the moment, have a bag packed and ready to go in the car for such occasions.

Take the time to explain to them what kind of behavior you expect from them while you are out to eat and that they can play with anything in this bag at the table while you wait for the food to come—as long as they can do so quietly.

2. Utilize Technology

There are strong opinions on either side of this issue, but personally, I say give the kid the tablet at the table. While meal time is certainly family time, eating out is likely a special treat for the adults in the family and trying to manage bored kids can ruin this experience. (There will always be time to interact with your kiddos for the other and plentiful hours of the day.) I’m not saying that you should give them tech at the table at home, but don’t feel like a bad parent if you want to enjoy the full experience of not cooking, not cleaning and being served by someone else for a change.

3. Know When To Leave

Sometimes toys, snacks and tech just won’t cut it, and part of managing the whole dining out experience with kids is knowing when you’ve been beat. Once you’ve exhausted your arsenault of distractions and your child is still not behaving, don’t hesitate to take him outside. Whether leaving the table is a punishment or simply a break to stretch his little legs and get out some energy, know when his behavior is becoming an issue and remove him from the situation before your fellow diners are truly disturbed.

4. Don’t Order The Kids’ Meals Early

This is a common mistake that parents make as they are eager to get their little ones fed and content. The problem with asking that your child’s meal comes first is: how do you keep him distracted when your food finally arrives? Restaurants are unpredictable places, and in a situation where the table’s food takes a long time to arrive, you may have a toddler on your hands who is fed and ready to roll before you’ve even had a chance to take your first bite. Nobody wants that.

The one exception to this rule is for really young kids who do, in fact, take forever to eat. If they take quite a long time to dine, then you’ll probably be safe to enjoy your meal when it hits the table.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Stay For Dessert

There’s no shame in a little bribery, and some may say there’s merit in some good ol’ positive reinforcement. At the beginning of the meal, inform your kiddos that they can order dessert if—and only if—they are patient and well behaved throughout dinner. Added bonus: you get to have dessert too!

6. Pick And Choose Your Battles

This is a big one. If your little guy is a tad rambunctious or tends to scream when he gets excited, you’re going to be fine at your neighborhood Chili’s. A Wolfgang Puck establishment, however, may not be your best bet. Don’t be afraid to try new places when you travel close to home or abroad, but know your child’s limitations and the general expectations you may face at any given restaurant you try. There’s no doubt that the older they get, the fancier you can go, but when your kiddos are little, pick and choose your dining battles wisely.

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Shauna Armitage

Author Shauna Armitage

Shauna Armitage is a military spouse, mother of four, lover of Coca-Cola, and host of the Startup Renegades podcast, a raw conversation with powerhouse founders building amazing businesses. While Shauna is a marketer by trade, she is a traveler by choice and loves to explore the world with her family in tow. Connect with her on Instagram @shaunajarmitage

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