Dining out with kids is always tricky but sometimes on a Friday night a Mum has to do what a Mum has to do. I remember the first time we took Isaac out to eat only to have him throw silverware on the floor, try and crawl right out of his high chair and finally screech pretty loud. The idea in our heads of a quiet 1 year old quickly flew out the window.
I’ll also never forget the day my parents were out to eat with us and as we produced the DVD player, my Dad exclaimed, “You’ve got to be kidding! We would never have done that with you!”
Well, times have changed and we do take our kids out to eat but we have realistic expectations and realize it’s not like a date night and it’s necessary to plan ahead! Here’s some ways I’ve learned to plan ahead when taking kids out to eat.
1) Set Expectations Ahead of Time.
If you don’t expect your children to sit still for an hour at home for dinner the chances are they won’t at a restaurant. The bright lights, talking and balloons only keep their attention so long. Instead make sure they know what’s expected and let them know that it’s going to be a fun family experience.
2) Bring a bag of tricks.
My purse is like the bag from Mary Poppins and you can tell I’m a Mum! It always contains a car or two, wipes, crayons and other items that my kids love. Think of bringing toys they haven’t played with in a while and for active little guys (like Isaac who’s 4) ensure that you bring a couple of new things that will at least keep their attention until dinner arrives.
3) Restaurants For Kids
There are places that serve kid-food and then there are family-friendly restaurants. These are places that go the extra mile to cater to your kids and give you a better evening out. Two places I love for going above and beyond are Red Robin and Chick-fil-A.
4) Pick a Kid-Free Night.
There are restaurants that offer free drinks for kids, others that do $.99 meals and still others that do free meals all weekend for little ones. Picking one of those means that if you child isn’t feeling in the mood to eat whatever is provided you won’t get as mad as if it had cost you a fortune. My Where Kids Eat Free list is available for you to bookmark.
5) Eat Out Early.
There is no point pulling up to a restaurant at 6.30pm on a Saturday night. By then you may have to wait 1/2 an hour and by the time you’re seated the kids have lost their cool and are starving. Head out to eat around 5pm and you’ll avoid the evening crowd and probably see a lot of other families out too.
6) Don’t Wait For A Table.
If there’s a wait, it’s time to move on. We pulled into a restaurant recently and after being told the wait was 1/2 an hour promptly drove on and right into the nearest Golden Arches.
7) Bring Disinfectant Wipes.
My girlfriend informed me recently that baby wipes don’t disinfect as I was wiping down the high chair with one! I still only use those but having some disinfectant ones around would help for sure!
8) Crackers and Snacks.
The minute we sit down we ask for kid’s menus (if they haven’t been provided) and crackers to keep them occupied while we read the menu. I won’t lie: I have been known to bring frozen peas to a restaurant because my kids love it and they keep them occupied!
9) Speed It Up
Order quick and ensure you have enough pre-dinner munchies. Don’t be afraid to ask the wait staff to bring your bill if things get rough.
Make sure you have a ton on hand to quickly mop up little spills.
Eating out with kids can be fun but for sure you need a plan! What’s your plan and your favorite kid-friendly restaurant?