Taking kids for an outing is certainly not as easy as it sounds. All parents will agree. This is especially true when you are heading out for dinner. Kids are unpredictable, and even the most well-behaved one might throw a fit at a restaurant.
It is highly stressful for a parent when their kid start screaming or crying loudly in the middle of the dinner, while other diners give them annoyed looks. Many parents tend to avoid dining out with kids. However, this shouldn’t be the case. If you are well-prepared, dining out with kids can actually be a pleasant experience.
Here are some tips to enjoy dinner with your family at a restaurant:
1. Avoid Taking out a Tired Kid
Never take a kid out who is exhausted and wants to go to bed. I repeat, never take a tired kid for dinner out! That is a recipe for disaster. Any tired kid forced to go out is bound to throw a tantrum. Aren’t you cranky when you are tired but have to attend a meeting or a family event? Of course you are! How can you expect a child to behave?
With kids, you have to plan out everything around their schedule, including dining out. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t go out for dinner. Make your reservation for the same time your child usually has dinner at home so that you can come back home in time for their bedtime.
2. Try Doing a Dress Rehearsal
Most of the time kids misbehave in restaurants because they don’t know how to behave or what is expected from them in such a setting. Doing a dress rehearsal may help, particularly if you are heading out for fine dining.
Set your dinner table with napkins and cutlery. Guide them through the steps. Turn it into a game, and tell them there will be a reward for them at the end of the meal or the next day if they behave. Order a dessert or get a small gift to give them later.
3. Go Early
Go for an early dinner. The restaurant is likely to be less crowded, the staff will be friendlier, and you will feel less stressed out.
4. Look up the Menu Online
The kids get tired of waiting while you browse through the menu. It’s even more of torture when there is nothing on the menu your kid likes to eat. It is best to browse through the online menu of the restaurant you are planning to go to. Check if they have a kids’ menu. If not, see if there are food items that your kid will happily eat.
Here’s a tip: go through the appetizers. You can create a full meal or a kid just from the appetizers! Soup, mash potatoes or fries, dumplings, and so much more. Ask for a breadbasket right away, so your kid has something to munch on.
5. Keep Them Entertained
Kids can easily get bored, so make sure you bring in some supplies. Pack some books, toys, and coloring books in your bag. It is best to avoid bringing in electronics or toys that make noise. The idea is to make sure other diners don’t get disturbed and you enjoy a pleasant dinner with your family.
Other than a child throwing a tantrum, loud noises from the toys or nursery rhymes blaring on an iPad is surely going to ruin the dining experience. Opt for things that will keep your kid quietly busy when they are bored.
Water-based coloring books are a great way to keep your kid entertained without worrying about creating a mess on the table and seats.
6. Order the Kids Food Immediately
Quickly ordering food for your kid is another good way of helping them settle down. This way you can help your kids get started on their food and enjoy your own meal hot when it arrives. Moreover, kids are usually slow eaters; they will finish the food at the same time when you do even if their food arrives 10 to 15 minutes early.
7. Bring Emergency Snacks
Just in case, make sure you have packed emergency snacks. It is best to be prepared. You might end up hitting traffic, the food might arrive a bit late or your kid might suddenly decide they don’t want to eat the food they had ordered themselves a while ago. Keeping emergency snacks handy can help prevent hunger tantrums.
8. Preplan the Seating Arrangement
Always request a corner table and avoid the middle tables like a plaque. This way, your kid will be out of the way of the waiting staff and other diners and reduce the chances of any disturbance from the kid being too noticeable.
9. Bring Your Own Bowl and Cups
To avoid any disaster, like a bowl or plating crashing on the floor, I would strongly recommend taking along some plastic bowls and cups for your kids. This spill-proof bowl is ideal for dining out and will prevent any mess.
10. Split Responsibilities with your Spouse
This is a great way to make sure both of you finish your food in peace. If you are a slow eater, then take charge of handling your kid while your spouse eats and when they are done, they can take responsibility.
You can also assign roles to one another, like helping with the food, taking them to the washroom, or taking them outside if they are getting too fussy.
These tips can certainly help you in dining out in peace with your kids. However, you shouldn’t stress out too much if they are creating a disturbance or being loud, this is what kids too. Despite all your preparations and efforts, sometimes the kids don’t seem to behave. You can simply get your food to go and eat at home. Put your kid to bed, reheat your dinner, and enjoy it with your spouse with a glass of wine and maybe even light up a candle.