Talk Back: Eating Out with Kids

Before having kids, my husband and I went to dinner quite a bit. Now, eating in a restaurant has kind of lost it's appeal, since it usually means a juggling act of trying to keep my two kids quiet amidst stares of annoyed diners wishing we had been seated somewhere else.


Do you go out to dinner with your kids? How often? What are your tricks of the trade for a pleasant dining-out experience?

8 comments:

  1. I always have crayons in the diaper bag, which come in handy. It is a rough stage for eating out for us, though. The only true tip I have is that I also often pack my kids' food for them, since they never seem to eat the food at the restaurant and it gets really expensive to waste that food and money.

    I am excited to see other moms tricks of the trade on this!

    Ali

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  2. It's torture. We try to avoid it whenever possible. It just isn't really worth the stress, money and cold food. But when we have to we always bring our Fisher Price Dining Seat. It keeps the little one more contained than a restaurant high chair and she thrashes the tray rather than the table and floor.

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  3. We do eat out with the kids. It is something that I have always valued and worked very hard to make a reality. Whenever we are with either sets of our family (which is often) we spend most nights at restaurants, many nice ones. I just started at a very early age training them at our dinner table at home and really working on the whole manners thing, not leaving the table, etc, etc. By no means is it easy but I have seen the training pay off and they really do have good manners when we are out.

    Here are some specific tips:Put in the order for their food early so they can start eating early and they are motivated by a special dessert. Also, paper and crayons is an easy one too. We often play "I Spy" in the restaurant and pick out things around the room.

    Of course, the older they get the easier it is, especially with setting expectations very young.

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  4. We go out with all 6(8,5,4,3,2,6mo) of our kids about every 2 weeks. No tricks here except training them to be obedient and well mannered at the dinner table at home. Also, I always tell them what we expect of them before we go into the restaurant, no matter that it's the same thing every time, we remind them. We always get compliments on how well behaved our kids are when out dining so I guess the training worked!

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  5. i am married to a chef so we have (with 1-3 kids in tow) braved fine dining, weddings, wine tasting, high end events, and all matter of kid-unfriendly events because we assume our kids will behave (and they really really love great food for the most part). going to restaurants works for us about 80% of the time. here's what helps us:

    1)as soon as you sit down (or while you are waiting) make some quick ordering decisions. this isn't rocket science. your kids can pick out of two choices ("chicken or pasta, sweet pea?") not the 17 options on the kids menu. and LESS is MORE. we are learning to order less than we think we need so there isn't so much left over...

    2)as soon as you catch the servers attention, assess. Is he/she into your kids or not into your kids? smile? roll eyes? grimace? run? this will help you later if you need an ally.

    3)order your food quickly. even if those servers are just trying to drop a napkin on your table and say hello - DON'T LET THEM LEAVE!!!!

    4)once your children have lost interest in their kids coloring pages, take them on a field trip to the bathroom, or back to the front lobby. one at a time, in pairs, as a group. bring one child twice. whatever you're in the mood for. this way, the waiting time decreases and then you don't have to take them twice later when your hot meal arrives.

    5)praise them into behaving. my husband and i are ridiculous with our affirmations in public. "wow, calvin, i cannot believe how well you colored that entire lions mouth by yourself. emalyn, did you help him? fred, look at this! have you ever seen anyone color like this? kayla, you did such a good job using your fork and not your fingers on the meatballs! you are amazing. you have the best table manners.emalyn, nice work cutting that potato!" people next to us must think we are completely bizarre...

    6)"all children who eat a great meal can share dessert" is our mantra.

    7)some restaurants just don't work. you will find the ones that do, and dining out will become more and more enjoyable. press on.....

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  6. none! you wonder why you don't see very many toddlers out in public relative t the number of babies that are born every year? it's because when they are no longer stroller bound, it is impossible to maintain the image of sanity in public.

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  7. I keep a sterilite box with a lid (not a huge one) in my car that has books, quiet small toys, mazes, etc. in it. I use it for car trips and restaurants- because the lid stays on it and I "dole" out the surprises when we are in the car- in a restaurant, they all seem like they are new.

    I also can't stress enough the importance of working on how you want your kids to act in public at home. Pick 1 night a week where your house is a restaurant, table actually set, special dessert ready, and pretend. This way you can praise them for doing a great job eating at your restaurant before they ever go somewhere and sense that you are nervous about how they will behave.

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  8. We always take a small bag of small toys that they have chosen themselves to bring. Nate usually chooses a few hot wheels and Hannah a smaller doll or two. Sometimes we even bring a game - Zingo is great for a restaurant. And, as most of you have commented, simply instilling good manners is key.

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