Dining out with kids

By Kathy Moore

Enjoying a lunch or dinner away from home should be a treat for the whole family, but sometimes it can be a disaster. Planning ahead makes all the difference. Here are some easy tips to follow on how to dine out with your children.

Prepare to dine at restaurants with kids

First, find kid-friendly locations. This does not need to be limited to fast food restaurants. Most restaurants that offer a kids’ menu will also have highchairs, booster seats, and a non-smoking section.
Before you go, prepare your children for the experience. Explain what the restaurant will be like, the types of food they will have, and what sort of behavior is expected.

What to consider before dining at restaurants with kids

Next, consider your timing. It usually spells trouble for our family if we are leaving for the restaurant at the time when our children would normally already be eating. Be sure to factor in your travel time, ordering, and preparation time into your schedule. This may mean leaving to go out much earlier than you might first think.

Ideas for dining at restaurants with kids

At the restaurant, be prepared with a few healthy but portable snacks for the children while they wait. My kids enjoy pears and applesauce, both of which are available in convenient individual-sized travel packs. Or, put some carrot sticks or crackers in a small container or plastic bag.
At sit-down restaurants, try ordering the children’s food as soon as possible. We usually order the kids’ food when the waitress comes to take our beverage order. Almost magically, the whole experience becomes less hectic the sooner the children have their food. Ordering kids’ entrees before our own also gives us time to cut or portion their food and assist them before our own food arrives allowing us to enjoy a hot meal too.
Order foods you know they will eat, but do not hesitate to offer children a taste of new foods they might not be able to have at home.
Bringing along a coloring book and crayons, or a few small toys, is also worthwhile. Just do not bring the whole toy box. The more you bring in, the more clutter you will have on your table and the more you will have to pick up when you leave.
Do not forget if your kids normally use bibs or sippy cups, it is a good idea to bring those items from home. Some restaurants provide kids’ cups with straws, but even those may be too much to handle for a toddler.
Making dining out a pleasure for the entire family is simple with a bit of planning and a little patience. And isn’t it always nice not to have to do the dishes?

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