Eating Out with Kids: Planning Ahead for Success

Eating out with kids at kid-friendly restaurants is a great family activity, especially during the winter months. Now, you might think I’m nuts to even attempt to dine out with five kids and you’re right that it can be very stressful, so we’re doing a series this month on how to eat out with kids successfully.

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I’ve learned that planning ahead makes a huge difference and an overall positive family dining experience.  Here are my tips!

Go on the right day and at the right time. That means NOT Saturday night dinner when other grown-ups are out on dates! Lunch is always a great option and is generally more casual or you could try an early weeknight dinner. I’ve even been known to show up at restaurants at 4 or 4:30 p.m. and yes, my kids were in their pajamas ready to be dumped in bed upon arrival at home!  It’s important to feed kids at their normal times OR EARLIER otherwise they’ll get hungry, which usually means CRANKY!

Go to the right kind of family-friendly restaurant. You’ll be much less stressed if there is a casual, entertaining atmosphere and other families around and the staff is used to having kids there and be accommodating to you with things like high-chairs. Plus, you’ll get the proper sized portion if you order of a kids’ menu…and you’re more likely to find something your kids will actually eat.

Explain to your little ones beforehand about behavior expectations and table manners you’d like to see. Keep it simple and focus on what’s important to you, whether that be not eating with your hands or not fighting or simply not stealing someone else’s fries.  Then, when you get there, let all the small things go and enjoy yourself.

Dress for success. This is a big one in our family: we don’t wear our Sunday best or new clothes out to eat since spills and stains are inevitable!  I once had an entire table covered with milk-shakes — it was spilling off all four sides onto the kids and the floor. And for toddlers it’s a good idea to bring along a bib.

How do you get your kids out of the house and ready to eat at your local restaurants? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

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