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Home » Eating Out with Kids? Ten Proven Tips for Success

Eating Out with Kids? Ten Proven Tips for Success

Key Takeaways

  • Preparation is Key: Pack toys, snacks, or books to keep your child entertained and comfortable during the meal.
  • Choose Wisely: Opt for kid-friendly restaurants and check their policies on kids ahead of time.
  • Set Clear Expectations: Discuss restaurant behavior and manners with your children before arriving.
  • Menu Considerations: Utilize kids’ menus if available and let your child help pick a dish.
  • Cater to Their Needs: Bring your own food for extremely picky eaters or those with allergies.
  • Engage Them: Play games or activities during wait times to keep them occupied.
  • Speak Up: Don’t hesitate to ask for substitutions or specific ingredient omissions for dietary needs.
  • Focus on the Experience: Remember, it’s about making memories and having fun together as a family.
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As a mom, I totally get how hard it can be to take your kids out to eat. From getting them dressed up and keeping meltdowns at bay when they don’t want to eat their food or think playing on the floor is more fun than sitting in their chair, being in public with little ones can definitely be overwhelming at times!

But don’t stress! In this post, I’m sharing ten helpful tips for surviving dining out with children so you can relax and enjoy yourself too.

Pack a few of their favorite toys, snacks, or books to keep them busy.

Bringing along a couple of toys, snacks, or books in your kid’s bag is a great way to help them feel more comfortable when out and about with you. This will keep them entertained and reduce fussiness or whining while you’re out.

The more at ease they feel, the better your dining experience will be! Some good items to pack are a favorite book, a puzzle, a coloring activity, healthy snacks like crackers or fruit, a small toy, their tablet, or a stuffed animal. Just avoid overpacking their bag with too many things.

Making sure to bring something fun is one of the most important tips here, as it really makes all the difference when dining out with little ones.

Picking kid-friendly restaurants with built-in entertainment like playgrounds or arcades is another good way to make dining out easier since it gives them something to do besides just focusing on eating.

Look into the restaurant’s policies on kids.

Before heading out, check with the restaurant to see what their kid-friendly policies are. For instance, some offer special kids’ menus or crayons for drawing on paper tablecloths, while others have designated play spaces in the back.

There’s nothing worse than showing up with your child only to find out that babies and toddlers aren’t allowed during certain times or that they have to stay completely silent. So do your homework!

It’s helpful to find out if they have a kids’ menu so you can get an idea of what food options will be available. This lets you plan ahead and pack favorite snacks too for something familiar.

Knowing how accommodating they might be with high chairs, space between tables, etc. can make dining much smoother too. Checking for potential difficulties like busy servers or a loud environment ahead of time allows you to prepare.

No matter where you’re headed, looking at online reviews can be useful. See what other parents have said about their experiences there – you may find some helpful tips to make things go more smoothly!

Set clear expectations for behavior before going to the restaurant.

Before heading out, make sure your kids understand what’s expected of them at the restaurant. For example, do they need to stay seated and quiet? Or can they play nicely as long as they aren’t bothering others? Will there be a special toy area while waiting?

Having managed expectations upfront reduces stress for everyone. Plus, it may prevent whining or crying upon arrival if they already know what they can and can’t do there!

Discussing any important rules beforehand, like not throwing food, can help avoid problems once you’re inside. You don’t want anything to ruin your meal!

Reviewing proper manners can be helpful too; make a list of things like sitting still, using inside voices, etc. You can even give them stickers at home for practicing good behavior as incentive!

kids menu

Order from the kids menu if there is one.

Be sure to ask if there’s a children’s menu you can order from. These offer smaller portions, making it easier (and cheaper!) for them to eat without getting overwhelmed or wasting food.

For picky eaters who only like certain foods, it’s especially helpful! Adult menu items may be too much, whereas kids’ menus have simpler options like grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, etc.

Use it as a chance to encourage trying new things too! Ordering the same old favorites from a kids’ menu doesn’t force them to expand their tastes, limiting options for going out in the future.

Bring your own food for picky eaters or kids with allergies.

Packing your own snacks or meal items is smart if your kids are extremely picky or have food allergies. You won’t always know what food options the restaurant has, so bringing something familiar avoids headaches!

Plus, it’s one less thing to worry about since you can just pack a snack bag ahead of time, just in case. For dietary restrictions like gluten or nut allergies, knowing you have safe options reduces stress.

Let them help pick one menu item to get them excited about ordering.

Another good way to get kids engaged is by asking for their input on what to order. This makes them feel involved, avoiding complaints since they got to help choose!

Play games if they get antsy during wait times.

If you find yourself waiting a while for food and the kids are getting bored, try playing some games together to keep them entertained!

You can also pick activities related to their order – guess how many ketchup packets or lettuce leaves will be on the table, for example. This keeps them busy until the food arrives!

Don’t be shy asking about substitutions or leaving off ingredients.

If your child has dietary restrictions or allergies, be sure to mention that when ordering. For example, ask to leave off pesto for nut allergies or have meat cooked without butter if they’re picky.

Most restaurants are happy to accommodate special requests, so don’t be afraid to ask! Even just one off-menu item would help, so it never hurts to inquire.

Make sure kids are hungry when going out to eat.

If your kids are already full from a previous meal before going out, they likely won’t enjoy the restaurant food and may complain more. Try to time things so they work up an appetite first – just a little wait makes a difference!

You don’t want them totally famished, but being ready for dinner avoids many issues.

Have fun together! Dining out with kids is about making memories.

Most importantly, focus on having fun and making happy memories when eating out as a family! You want your kids to look back fondly on these experiences, not see them as a source of stress.

If they’re enjoying themselves, you likely will too. So keep things light and enjoyable for everyone!

Dining Out with Kids: A Quick Guide

Eating out with youngsters can feel like venturing into a lion’s den, especially for new parents. We all love those peaceful meals, sipping wine or coffee, and taking our time with every bite. But with kids? It’s a different ballgame. Luckily, we’ve got a quick cheat sheet to turn those chaotic moments into delightful family memories. Dive into our table below for a flash summary.

StrategyDescriptionWhy It’s Essential
Engaging Toys and ActivitiesCarry a small arsenal of their beloved toys or books.Keeps tantrums at bay and ensures they’re entertained.
Kid-Friendly RestaurantsPrefer venues with play areas or kids’ menus.Makes the dining experience more comfortable and enjoyable for both kids and parents.
Setting BoundariesChat about restaurant manners beforehand.Reduces unexpected meltdowns and ensures a smoother mealtime.
Menu HacksUse kids’ menus or bring your own food for picky eaters.Addresses diverse palate needs, ensuring kids eat happily.
Interactive Waiting GamesEngage them in fun games while waiting.Minimizes restlessness and keeps the fun meter high.
Food CustomizationAsk for special preparations or omissions.Perfect for dietary restrictions and particular tastes.
Optimal Meal TimingEnsure kids are a tad hungry before dining out.Hungry kids are more likely to try new foods and eat without fussing.
Memory MakingFocus on fun, not just food.It makes for cherished family moments, not just another meal out.

Reflecting on Our Table: Isn’t it fascinating how simplifying the dining-out process can be summed up in just a few strategic steps? Next time you’re about to Google “how to survive a restaurant with a toddler,” remember this table. By focusing on things like “interactive waiting games,” “food customization,” and “memory making,” you’ll turn those dining nightmares into gourmet dreams!

In Summary

I hope these tips help make dining out with your little ones more smooth and fun for the whole family. The key is managing expectations, keeping them engaged, and focusing on making happy memories together.

Bon appétit! Enjoy your time together out and about.


Dining with Tots: Frequently Asked Questions

What should I pack in my kid’s bag when dining out?

Consider packing a few of their favorite items, such as toys, snacks, books, puzzles, coloring activities, or even their tablet, to keep them entertained. Just make sure you don’t overpack.

How do I know if a restaurant is kid-friendly?

Many restaurants offer features like kids’ menus, crayons, or designated play spaces. It’s a good idea to check their policies ahead of time and see if there are any restrictions or accommodations for children.

What should I do if the restaurant doesn’t have options my child likes?

If the restaurant doesn’t offer a suitable kids’ menu or if your child is very picky, consider bringing your own food. This is especially important for children with allergies.

How can I keep my child engaged while waiting for our food?

Playing games or doing activities related to their order, such as guessing how many ketchup packets will come with the meal, can keep them occupied until the food arrives.

Is it okay to ask for special food preparations for my child?

Yes, most restaurants are open to accommodating special requests. Whether it’s due to dietary restrictions, allergies, or personal preferences, it’s always good to inquire.

Should I feed my child before going out to eat?

It’s best to ensure your child is a bit hungry when heading to the restaurant. While you don’t want them overly famished, timing things so they’re ready for a meal can make the experience more enjoyable.

How can I ensure my child behaves at the restaurant?

Setting clear expectations for behavior before you arrive can be beneficial. Discussing rules and reviewing manners can help ensure a smooth dining experience.


Is the main objective of dining out with kids just about the food?

Not necessarily. The primary focus should be on having fun and making lasting memories as a family.