Dining Out with Children

Now that you have children, your days of enjoying a nice meal at a cozy, romantic restaurant are over, right? Well, maybe the choice of restaurants will have to change, but it is possible to eat out with children. In fact, going out for dinner once in a while can be a good thing for your kids. It exposes them to a new type of social dynamic, gives them a chance to practice polite mealtime etiquette, and allows them the opportunity to try new foods. But it doesn't have to be a mission impossible to make it through a meal. Just use these tips to make the experience a positive one.

  • Where you eat is always important. Look for a restaurant that is kid-friendly. If they have highchairs, a kid's menu, a placemat with children's activities on them and hand your child a pack of crayons as soon as you're seated, you know you don't need to worry so much if a drink gets spilled.

  • Restaurants that have a high noise level are also good choices for families with young children. Your preschooler's shrieks will be absorbed more easily by all the background noise.

  • When you go is also important. If you have very young children that you know won't be able to sit still for very long, then head out before or after the peak meal time hours. Service will be quicker when there are fewer people in the restaurant.

  • Since a hungry child is often a cranky child, feed your preschooler a small snack before going out for dinner. It will tide her over until her meal arrives and make her more pleasant for the evening. And don't worry if she doesn't finish her meal; young children rarely finish their dinners, with or without a snack. Just get a doggy bag for the leftovers.

  • To help your child stay seated during the meal, consider going for a little walk after you have ordered your food. Take a walk around the restaurant and look at any pictures or artwork that might be on the walls. If there are other stores outside, then do some window shopping. However, make sure your child is always accompanied by an adult. You don't want your preschooler running around and getting in the way of the servers.

  • You might also want to bring entertaining reinforcements from home to occupy your child. A few small toys, a coloring book or some blank paper, even their favorite storybook are easy ways to keep them happy while they sit at the table.

  • It also doesn't hurt to bring some food from home. Children may not like the way their hamburger is cooked at the restaurant, so having some orange slices on hand can keep them from getting hungry.

  • Don't feel bad if you have to ask for the check before you even get your food. No matter how hard you try, there are just some times when eating at a restaurant with young children will not work. So get your food to go and eat at home.
With time, your children will get more accustomed to eating out in public and their behavior will improve. Soon, you'll be able to go back to those cozy, quiet restaurants that you once loved and take your children with you.