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Dining out / Children at Restaurants

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Aaron Paker Aaron Paker 6 years, 3 months ago.

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    Profile photo of Allison

    Of course there are family friendly restaurants, but what about restaurants that don’t necessarily scream "bring your child here?"  Is it appropriate to take kids to nicer places if you are going as a family?   And if so, does anyone have any tips or suggestions to making it as a good of an experience as posisble?


    We have taken our 3.5 year old to several nicer restaurants.  We always start out by letting her know up front that this is a special dinner and that we need her to really help us keep it fun.  We review what "best behavior" looks like; we bring a coloring book and crayons just incase there is nothing like that already there, and if she starts to lose control we first take a short walk to the lobby and talk quietly about future consequences, and then if they continue, she and I take a time out in the car until she is ready to return, even if that means we miss all of dinner and have to eat from doggy bags at home.  That has only happened one time and she learned from that time that I really would miss dinner and impose the consequence.  Since then all I have to do is ask if we need to go wait in the car and she settles right down.  Consistency and follow through are super important.  We also make a point of thanking her frequently for her good choices and point out that if she can be this helpful every time we go out, we might be able to do it more often.

    Profile photo of Blog Editor
    Blog Editor

    Eating at a nice restaurant is a treat for both kids and mom and dad.  I agree with earlier posts in that if you can go during the 5:30-6:00 range, that is the best time.  I also would make a reservation or call ahead so wait time is reduced.  Checking out the kids menu, knowing what it includes and what you will likely order for your kids helps too.

    We happen to eat out a lot on the weekends (although we took a few month break when we realized our 2 year old couldn’t handle it for awhile.  IMO when your kids just can’t handle eating out, take a break.) so I definitely can share some tips.

    • I bring a toothbrush holder filled with bendy straws (I actually keep it in my purse all the time).  Most restaurants don’t offer these (why I don’t know) but I find them quite helpful in controlling drink messes.
    • I have a small pack of Wikki Stix also always in my purse  These I find are easier to always have on hand.
    • If my kids get antsy, we play a game of hide the sugar packets (which hand for example or pretend to pull them out of my kids ears, etc…)
    • At really nice restaurants where the goal is to enjoy the meal and not bother other people, I bring my ipad or ipod.   THIS IS NOT A REGULAR distraction as I really believe kids need to learn how to eat out and be patient and converse while out to dinner but there are definitely times when the goal is more for me to enjoy my meal than let my kids practice being good at restaurants.

    We also try to order our kids meals shortly after sitting down.  They way slower than we do so having there meals come first isn’t a big issue.  We’ve also been known to have one parent make a bathroom run with both kids so the other can enjoy a drink/their meal for a few moments.  And we’ve also hand one parent leave early while the other pays the bill to make it a more enjoyable experience for all.

    Finally, if you haven’t got in the habit of ordering fries with your kids meals – don’t.  Most restaurants offer vegetables or other healthier sides.  Why introduce your child to fries as a side earlier than necessary?  You can always give them some of yours!

    Happy Dining.


    My first tip would be to go early, especially to those places that tend to fill up around the typical "dinner time".  You don’t want to have to entertain a small child while you wait for a table, then have to do it again while you wait for your meal.

    I also used to have a "restaurant bag" in my car when my son was very small — a few quiet toys, books, hand wipes, crackers (or Cheerios or goldfish) to hold him over.  I kept it in the car so it was always ready if we stopped.  Now that he’s a little older, I keep crayons, a word search book, matchbox cars, and crackers in my purse (yes, it’s very large 🙂 ).


    Toya C

    I’ve always felt that if I’m going to spend undue time worrying about whether the children can handle a nice restaraunt, then it is probably not worth it. There are so many kid-friendly spots that it hardly seems worth all of the stress (for you and the children)!

    I know that someday they’ll be old enough to enjoy and appreciate fine dining…but until then, fun spots like Friendly’s are probably best for us all!


    I always check out the kids menu before we go anywhere that isn’t geared towards the family. My son can be picky (and by that I mean he orders the same item off of every kids menu) so I want to make sure there is something for him. Since kids menus are pretty generic this usually isn’t an issue. That being said, one of the biggest sources of restaurant meltdowns can be debates over meal choices! While I understand the value of encouraging your child to branch out, I think there is a time and place for having that "battle" – and it isn’t a nice restaurant where other people are also trying to have a nice night out.

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