Whenever I ask a mother with young children out for lunch or brunch, she will give me a brief wide-eye look of horror and quickly decline. Usually explaining that the thought of children in a restaurant just stresses her out too much.
And I admit it. Dining out with a kid IS stressful.
So why do I do it?
I believe, like all things from potty training to saying please, the task is hard and tedious but the reward is worth it. Dining out teaches are young ones skills such as patience, engaging in conversation, being mindful of those around you, learning new experiences, practicing manners and showing appreciation.
My son and I now dine out every Friday. Just he and I. And we never go to places with a playland or kids menu. Crazy right? Not really. He loves it, waits patiently, and we play a lot together. And after months of painful practice it has become something that we both enjoy. Here are a few of our tips that have made dining out with kids actually...enjoyable.
Tips on How To Dine Out With Kids
1. Start early.
We are millennials that love dining out so we have been dining out with our son since he was a month old. We have taken him to all types of restaurants, some kid-friendly and some not. Which means we've changed diapers on tables in public. Since we have started taking our son to restaurants early on he has grown accustom to the practice of sitting in high chairs, waiting for food and playing patiently.
2. Have good timing.
You know the best time of the day for your child so pick that time to go to a restaurant. Maybe they are the happiest in the afternoon or maybe in the evening. Choose that time and make an outing of it. We would plan our dining out times when our son would have dinner which was around 5. He would be full and happy with his bottle and we would snag some great happy hour specials.
3. Bring toys.
Bring some toys your child loves. We don't bring an IPad or other tech based toys because we want the waiting time to be a time when we can engage with our son and we personally feel that that takes away from our time together. So we bring his favorite books and toys and read and play with him as we wait for our food. But feel free to do whatever works for you.
4. Ask for the check.
Don't be afraid to ask for the check before you finish your meal just in case you do need to leave early. This always worked well for us when we knew nap time was quickly approaching. We were paid and ready to go at any meltdown or blowout.
5. Set the expectation.
Don't expect that your child will act like a wild animal or they will. Okay, let's be honest. They will have their moments, so be realistic, but keep the expectation high and be consistent.
6. No one cares.
Working in the restaurant industry I know that no one will care if your kid is loud or throws some food on the floor. In fact, all servers know that that is the norm. They expect to have a mess around the high chair. They know that your ticket might be less because you won't be drinking or staying later for a dessert. So don't be embarrassed. Just leave a little extra.
7. Pick the spot.
We of course don't take our son to quiet, fine-dining restaurants. We like to choose restaurants that have high quality food but one that we can be noisy in. Preferably one with high chairs.
There are going to be a lot of moments when your child is not going to want to stay in a high chair, eat food and instead choose to yell and throw their dinner. But the moments that they are learning the skill of dining out and are enjoying their food or waiting patiently, enjoy it. Take that moment in, surprise your waiter and order a glass of wine and know that you are teaching a worthwhile skill.