Thursday, October 23, 2014

We're Going To A Restaurant

Taking kids to a restaurant to eat is nothing short of an adventure. Rarely are they perfectly behaved. Mine always take the opportunity to act as if they've never heard the word 'no'. I've tried just about everything to keep my kiddos happy through the waiting at restaurants. Here are a few things I've learned in my nearly 6 1/2 years of dining out with kids:

Our youngest, staring at the other diners, asking them what they got to eat and if it was good. This goes under the things we're trying to teach our kids NOT to do while eating at a restaurant.
  • Choose a family restaurant. They're a bit more tolerant of your two year old who won't sit in her seat or screams "I WANT FRIES MOMMY!" during ordering. These restaurants always have things for the kids to do while they wait. We ate at Famous Dave's this past weekend and not only were the kids given crayons and coloring books to keep them busy, I noticed a small play area in the front in case there was a wait for a table. Genius!
  • Bring lots to do, even some snacks, especially if the restaurant isn't as family friendly. If you're dining some place on the weekend, you're pretty much guaranteed a wait time no matter where you go. Kids are horrible when they're hungry, so I bring a few snacks along to keep them satisfied. Small baggies of Cheerios, raisins, grapes, and carrot sticks are a few of my go-to snacks. I also put in crayons and paper (in case the restaurant doesn't have any), small books, and stickers.
  • Go at non-meal times. I feel like an old lady as I admit that 11:00 a.m. is lunch time. At least if we're taking the kids with us to go out to eat. My biggest rule when we decide to eat at a restaurant, we either go the earliest we can or the latest (this usually requires a huge, late breakfast for my kids) that way we don't have to deal with a crowded restaurant and wait times. That just spells out disaster.
  • Go over rules and table manners on your way to dinner. I always remind them they must stay in their seats, use inside voices, etc. We also bring a few restaurant books with us. Two of our faves are: Froggy Eats Out and The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners. This book: Daniel Goes Out for Dinner (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood) is already on my kid's Dinner Books Wish List. These books help remind my kids of how they're suppose to act in a restaurant. Sometimes it works great, other times I ask myself why I even bothered.
  • Be prepared. I like to look up restaurant's menus (if available) and give the kids some idea of what the restaurant has to eat. If it's a restaurant we haven't been to, I look at pictures of the restaurant before we go or talk to people who have been there. Looking up the menu beforehand makes ordering so much less time consuming and telling my kids about the restaurant before we go gives them some idea of what to expect.
  • Always request a larger table than what you think you may need. Sounds ridiculous (and sometimes it's just not possible) but there's hardly anything worse than sitting at a cramped table with the kids. Claustrophobia sets in big time for all.
  • If someone has a food allergy (my oldest son has several, which is why I bring this one up because it's one of the more important Must Do's for our family), call the restaurant ahead of time. See if they can meet the needs of the person with allergies. If not (which has happened to us), ask if it's okay to bring your own food into the restaurant. In my experience, restaurant's are more than okay with this because it's not an inconvenience to their kitchen staff and takes the pressure off of them. 
  • Point out the "naughty kids" in the restaurant. This sounds horrible (and it probably is), but be sure to point out to your kids when they're being good, the kids who aren't following "restaurant rules." Nothing makes my kids want to behave better than when they see another child misbehaving and me disapproving.
It's always been important to me to take my kids out to eat once a week so they could learn from an early age how to behave in a restaurant. The tips above have helped us accomplish this and keeps the eating out chaos down to a minimum. How do you keep your kids entertained so you can eat your dinner at restaurant? I'd love to hear any additional tips!