Eating out with kids is a gamble. No matter how much you plan around their usual nap schedule, their behavior once they get to the restaurant is unpredictable. There have been several times when I’ve gotten completely dressed—even thrown on a little makeup—to end up getting undressed and staying home because my son was just not in the mood to go anywhere. And to be honest, I’d rather he come to that realization before we leave than to do so once we’re already at a restaurant full of people who conveniently forget how to conduct themselves around a baby.
When we do actually get a chance to go out to eat, there’s an entire routine that I do my best to follow just to make sure things go as smooth and as stress-free as possible. And I know what you’re thinking: why not just get a sitter if we want to go out to eat? Well, believe it or not, sometimes it’s easier to just bring our son with us instead of having to pump enough milk to leave behind, especially since lately he’s been picky about what solid foods he likes to eat.
Here are a few tips that will prepare you for the next time you’re eating out with kids.
Tips for Eating Out With Kids
Choose a kid-friendly restaurant. And when I say “kid-friendly,” I don’t mean a place that has a ball pit or indoor jungle-gym. There are restaurant’s that don’t serve fast food that can still be considered “kid-friendly.” When I’m searching for a good restaurant for the entire family, I look at the menu as well as the seating arrangements. If the layout is all high-top tables in a bar setting, then I know that’s not the place for us. And thanks to Yelp, I can see all of these things and even see what people have to say about a particular restaurant.
Bring snacks, just in case. Once you get to the restaurant, ordering takes time, time that your little one may not be willing to spend, especially if they’re hungry. Bring some of their favorite snacks to hold them over until the food arrives.
Engage with your kid. Our son isn’t quite old enough to enjoy the coloring that most restaurants offer for children. He’d rather explore the crayons with his mouth. We also try not to rely on his tablet as a source of entertainment, especially at the dinner table. We’ve found that engaging in conversation and playing little games gives him the attention he needs and keeps him busy until it’s time to eat.
Keep things as clean as possible. Kids are messy eaters; that’s just the way it is. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help reduce some of their mess, especially since you aren’t the one having to clean the restaurant once you’re gone. I rely on my ezpz silicone placemat. It sticks to the table and prevents my son from grabbing his plate and slinging food all over the place. If the restaurant has tablecloths, be sure your little one doesn’t turn into a magician and try to perform the tablecloth trick.
Enjoy your dinner. Don’t forget to enjoy your dinner. That’s the real reason you’re here, right? Enjoy the fact that there was a delicious meal prepared for you and you don’t even have to worry about doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen once you’re done eating.
Hopefully, these tips come in handy the next time you plan a trip to a restaurant. And don’t worry if things don’t go as planned. Keep your poker face on and know that you aren’t alone. At least you tried. There will be other lunch dates and dinners.