Eating out with a young child is not always easy


restaurant tables with red tablecloth brown wooden chairs
Choose a child-friendly restaurant

So you’ve decided to go out to eat a meal at a restaurant to celebrate an occasion or have a relaxing meal with your child? We assume that it will be a calm, enjoyable experience but sometimes It may not go as well as expected. The interruptions, diaper changes, tantrums or mess you experience at home during meal times will be no different in a restaurant so be prepared and forewarned.

 Here are some tips that might help when eating out with a child:

  • Choose a restaurant that is ‘child-friendly’. It should have safe high chairs or booster seats available. The wait staff should be able to handle the occasional spill or special requests with understanding and courtesy.
  • Choose an appropriate time for the meal. If your child is usually in bed by 8:00 p.m., then don’t go out to eat at 7:00 p.m but try to keep the regular bedtime schedule. An early rather than a late supper, for example, is preferable for two reasons: 1) your child is not as tired and 2) this allows for winding-down time before bed.
  • Do not go at a time when the restaurant is crowded and busy because service could be slow.
  • If your child is old enough, prepare him in advance of the outing. Tell him where he is going, what you will be doing, what he will be seeing and how you expect him to behave.
  • This is not the time to order unfamiliar food for your child unless you are 100% sure he will like it. Best would be to stick to familiar dishes that he knows and likes. If his favorite food is hamburger and fries or mac and cheese, don’t order him a pasta primavera.
    Child's restaurant menu
    Children’s menu

    After all, we want the child to enjoy the dining experience. That’s why kids’ menus exist. If there is nothing suitable for him, then consider sharing some of your own food order. Many menus offer soda pop as a beverage so consider substituting this with a more nutritious option or bring a drink from home.

  • Bring a bag of goodies that includes both snacks and toys. Children get fidgety if they are doing nothing but waiting, especially if they are hungry. Some child-friendly restaurants provide crayons and paper on which to color but be prepared in the event that your child does not feel like drawing or coloring so a quiet toy from your goodie bag will hopefully keep him occupied for a while. Sometimes there can be a long wait before food is served and a cracker or breadstick from your goodie bag can help, especially if your child is very hungry.
  • Be ready for unexpected trips to the bathroom, tantrums, misbehavior, etc. If your child is showing signs of crankiness, taking a walk around the restaurant or even outside for a couple of minutes can help diffuse a meltdown.
  • Don’t dawdle at the end of the meal because by then your child will most likely want to get up and move. Do not expect him to sit still while you linger over your coffee or tea. Keep it short and sweet.

I hope all goes well and that you enjoy a beautiful dining experience!

child with green messy food on face and hands
Dining out is fun!

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