Tips For Eating Out With Young Kids

Tips For Eating Out With Young Kids

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The benefits of eating out as a family are many: you get to leave the house, you discover new restaurants, and you can try different cuisine. The challenge, however, is finding ways to make eating out as a family more often an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

For parents with young kids, this can be even trickier. To help you find your way and make it happen more often, here are some tips for eating out with young kids that we’ve learned through trial and error.

Plan Ahead

There are so many variables that go into a successful restaurant visit. When you have young kids, you should plan for these variables and then some. It’s good to know that when you’re planning ahead, you have a much better chance of making the experience a positive one.

  • Choosing the right restaurant – You want to choose a restaurant that is sure to have something that all the members of your party will enjoy eating. If you are not familiar with the restaurant scene in your town, ask around and do some research to find the best options.
  • At what time is the best to go – You’ll want to think about what time of day is best for you and your family to go out. If your kids are in daycare, do you have time to go out for lunch or only dinner? Do your kids have a nap schedule? If so, where does it fall in the day? How much time do you have to get everyone where they need to be?
  • What to wear – You may have an idea of what the restaurant is like, but it never hurts to check the dress code beforehand. If you’re not sure, err on the side of being a little more dressed up. If you and/or your kids don’t have appropriate outfits, consider borrowing something or buying something inexpensive to wear. You want your family to feel comfortable and accepted wherever they go.

Find Family-Friendly Restaurants

If you love to eat at certain restaurants, it’s probably because the food is tasty and the service is great. However, if you eat at a restaurant regularly, you’re probably also drawn to the ambiance of the place.

If you want to recommend these restaurants to your friends or other families, or if you just want to make it easier to eat out as a family, you need to find restaurants that are family-friendly.

We’ve found that restaurants with high noise levels, dim lighting, and small tables rarely offer a good experience for families. That certainly doesn’t mean you can’t eat at these places, but it’s helpful to know the red flags that you’re likely not to have a great experience.

Go During The Early Shift

We’ve learned that dining out with kids is a lot easier during the first shift, from like 12-2. This is when most families are out at restaurants, including parents without kids and some families with kids. Most of the time, the staff is prepared for a high volume of customers and is more than ready to help you and your kids.

They’re also likely still open to making changes and additions to the menu if your kids are picky eaters. With all this in mind, if you do go during the first shift, be sure to keep the noise level down, even if your kids are being quiet. The staff and other patrons may not be as prepared or ready to handle your family as they will be later in the day.

Don’t Forget The Basics

Even if you’ve found the perfect place to eat at and have the kids dressed up nicely, you’ll want to keep the basics in mind. Your kids will likely be excited about eating out for the first time.

While that’s understandable, you need to let them know that there are certain rules you’ll follow in the restaurant. These should be basic guidelines that you can apply at any restaurant, whether it’s a family-friendly place or not.

  • Don’t run. – If your child is running around the restaurant, they’re likely scaring other patrons and the staff. If you can, try and get your child to walk around the restaurant. If they’re too young to walk and run, try putting them in a stroller or holding them.
  • Stay at the table. – Kids will almost always want to get up from the table and explore the restaurant. While you don’t want to keep them cooped up in their chairs, you also want to make sure they’re safe. If you want your child to explore the restaurant, try and keep them close to the table. If your kids are too young to be mobile, try to keep them in their chairs.

Pack A Restaurant Survival Kit

If you have young kids, you know that being prepared for every situation is key to enjoying your time out at a restaurant. If your kids have never been to a restaurant before, it’s helpful to have the basics in your bag.

If they have been to a restaurant before, you may only need to add a few items to your survival kit. Here are some items to keep in your restaurant survival kit:

  • A change of clothes for any child who makes a mess or spills something – This can include a bib if your child is still in the drooling/spitting stage. – Extra crayons and a coloring book or an activity book
  • Many restaurants make these available to kids while they’re waiting for the food or waiting to leave.
  • Something to drink – If you’re going to a place that serves a kids’ menu, have some water on hand for your child.
  • Something to eat – Again, if you’re going to a place that serves a kids’ menu, bring something for your child to eat. If you’re going to a place that doesn’t serve a kids’ menu, consider bringing some Cheerios or some other snack your child likes. You can also pack some crackers or cookies if you think your child might be hungry before the food arrives.

Set Realistic Expectations For Everyone

You and your kids are excited to be at the restaurant, but you also don’t want to set unrealistic expectations for everyone in the restaurant.

Remember that the restaurant staff are there to serve you and other patrons. They want you to have a great experience, but they’d likely like to go home to their families after a long day at work. Here are some ways to set realistic expectations for everyone:

  • Be loud and proud – If your child is excited but is not sure how to show it, encourage them to be loud. You might have to explain that the patrons and staff at the restaurant would likely prefer a toddler being loud to them being quiet.
  • Be prepared for messes – If you have a toddler or infant, you’re likely going be dealing with a lot of messes. This is to be expected, but be prepared for it. Try and keep the crayons and other items your child is likely to play with to one side or the other of the table. And, don’t put food on the same side as your child’s toys.

Try New Food With Young Children

If you want your child to try a new food, you should try it first. Eating a new food with your child can be an excellent way to try new things and introduce them to new foods. You can try new food with your child in a couple of ways:

  • Mix it into what they’re eating – If your child is eating something that you want them to try a new food with, mix the two together. For example, if your child is eating macaroni and cheese and you want them to try broccoli, mix some broccoli into the macaroni and cheese. – Feed it to them
  • If your child is eating something that you don’t want to mix with the new food, try feeding the new food to them. For example, if your child is eating applesauce and you want them to try a new food, feed them the broccoli with a spoon.

The Bottom Line

Eating out with young kids can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. To make eating out with your young family easier, you should plan ahead, find family-friendly restaurants, go during the early shift, and don’t forget the basics.

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