The Good Friends Question of the Day: Tips for dining out with kids? Please share – Frazzled moms want to know or call 1-800-944-8443!
Table for Three: Tips for Dining Out with Toddlers: It requires patience & planning – these tips may help
- Choose the Right Establishment: You don’t have to limit yourself to fast food, but do pick a place that’s family-friendly. Look for restaurants with a children’s menu and high chairs — and most important, where they’re used to a little (or a lot of) noise and mess.
- Never Take a Tired Toddler Out: Talk about a recipe for disaster! When you make your reservation, plan around your child’s regular sleep schedule. If he typically naps at 1 p.m., an early dinner is a much better idea than lunch at noon.
- Bring Supplies: When my own son was a toddler and we were getting ready for a restaurant meal, my husband always joked, “Do you have your bag of tricks?” But it was no laughing matter — it worked! Finger puppets, sheer scarves for peekaboo, and sorting toys that fit on a high-chair tray are all great for keeping little kids occupied.
- Don’t Get Too Comfortable: “Twenty minutes in a high chair is about all you can reasonably expect from a toddler,” Post warns. (More active kids may not even last that long.) After that, you or your partner will probably have to take your kid for a walk before he can sit quietly again. Fortunately, taking a quick jaunt outside is like pressing the ‘refresh’ button.”
- Pick Your Plate ASAP: If you want time to actually eat your meal before a tantrum sets in, place your order as quickly as possible. You might think it’s helpful to order your kid’s meal first, but that tactic can backfire in the likely scenario that she finishes eating before your food even arrives — and then she’ll need something to occupy her while you eat. A better plan: Order together (don’t be shy about asking the waiter to put a rush on it) and offer your kid some favorite snacks you’ve brought from home, which should keep them satisfied until the meal comes.
- Respect Other Diners: Even if you’re at an inexpensive family restaurant, other customers have the right to enjoy a meal in relative peace. If your child is getting restless or agitated, cart him out of the restaurant to settle down. If he still becomes loud and rowdy at the table, apologize to nearby folks as you walk out (you’ll be surprised how many will give an empathetic “been there”nod). And don’t forget to tip generously if you’ve left a mess behind.
- Be Prepared To Leave: Even the most well-planned meal can turn into a complete dining disaster. Take your food to go, put your child to sleep in his crib, and then enjoy your meal at home — preferably by candlelight.