Remember the good ol’ days of going out for a nice dinner with your partner? In your new life as a parent, the freedom to plan a night out doesn’t come as easily. I bet you have thought of taking your infant or toddler out with you to dinner, but wondered if it would be worth it. Sure it is! You can go to a restaurant with kids and still enjoy yourselves. If you plan ahead and follow these tips for dining out with kids, you will be able to go to a restaurant without always having to track down a babysitter.

Timing is Everything

The first step is picking the right time of day to go out. DO NOT make reservations near nap or bedtime. I think it is best to dine out at a restaurant with kids when your child wakes up from their afternoon nap. Your child will be well rested and the restaurants won’t be busy around 3 or 4 o’clock. If your child is hungry as soon as they wake up, have milk they can sip on during the car ride to the restaurant (as long as they no longer spit-up or need to burp).

Order an Appetizer

If your children are too hungry to wait until the meal is ready, order an appetizer and bring light snacks that will hold them over. If the restaurant has tortilla chips or bread served, that should suffice. You know your child best, if he seems VERY hungry, order his meal when you order drinks and ask it to come out first.

Breastfeeding Moms, you have a snack ready to go on demand and it will help pass time to feed while waiting for your food. However, for older children here are some light snacks we enjoy when going to a restaurant with kids.

  • Cheerios
  • Granola bar
  • Fruit squeeze pouch
  • Mum-Mum rice teethers
  • Annie’s cheddar bunny crackers

Set the Table up for Success

First off, clear the table setting in front of your child. All you need is the swipe of a hand knocking over a glass of water or flinging a knife through the air. Now, of course restaurants have highchairs; but they don’t always have plastic plates and more child friendly items. Here are tips for dining out with kids and the items you don’t want to leave home without. We have these items packed at all times so that when we want to go out to a restaurant with kids, we don’t have to rush around.

  • Bumkin bib with a pocket (we always keep a clean one in the diaper bag)
  • No spill Munchkin straw cup
  • High chair cover for cleanliness (we keep this in the car)
  • Stick-on disposable placemats (we keep these in the diaper bag all the time)
  • Fork and Spoon set with case (we keep a clean set in the diaper bag)

Pack the Diaper Bag for a Restaurant with Kids

Entertainment is key when at a restaurant with kids because you have to wait for your food. At home kids can play right up until dinner is served. Bring a few engaging toys, a book, or favorite action figure to help keep children engaged. Have you ever been out to eat and had it ruined by the constant sound of a child gaming on their tablet? For everyone’s sake, it is preferable you bring non-electronic toys.

  • Crayons and paper are a must, but more importantly… STICKERS!
  • Bristle Blocks are a great size to pack a few in a sandwich Ziplock bag
  • Origami
  • I Spy book, lift the flap book, or first 100 words book
  • Melissa & Doug Water Wow activity pad
  • Colorform or Reusable Activity Sticker Book
  • Felt Friends Craft Set

Take a Lap

Do you have a wiggle worm child? Know their limits. A great tip for dining out with kids is to notice when they get fidgety and take a walk to the host stand, bathroom, or outside for a few minutes when waiting for your food. The more you practice dining out with kids the easier it will get. Don’t have too high of expectations the first few times; as with anything it takes practice.

Be Consistent with Rules

Kids will learn to behave appropriately in a restaurant if you have consistent expectations of them from day one. You must follow through with any warnings you give when at a restaurant with kids. If you tell your three year old that if he yells again, he will have to go outside, then you need to do that. It may not be ideal to leave the table, but if your child knows that you are serious then next time he will listen when you give a warning. Here are some simple rules we set the first time going to a restaurant with kids.

  • Use an indoor voice; yelling will lead to leaving the table
  • Stay at the table so we don’t bump into a waitress
  • Also, we joke that there is a sign on the door that says, “No Whining.”

Now pack your diaper bag, make a reservation, and give it a try! You have the tips for dining out with kids, now you just need the confidence. 

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About The Author

Kelsey Dickson has over 15 years of experience working with children as a nanny, preschool teacher, and now a mother. She has her degree in Early Childhood Education and is a Certified Potty Training Expert. At Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny she is the eLearning and Social Media Manager. Check out our online childcare classes, such as Baby Sign Language and Sleep Coaching 101! In her free time she enjoys gardening with her children, going for walks with her family, and discovering local wineries in New England.

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