Knowing how to keep your child happy when eating out will mean a good time for the entire family.
In an earlier episode, I advocated adding fun activities to your family budget, such as eating out. But small children can make restaurants difficult. Here are the Quick and Dirty Tips for getting out as a family and having a pleasant dining experience:
Tip #1: Where to Eat
Save the fancier restaurants for when you have a babysitter. It’s best to choose an old favorite—you’ll know whether it accommodates children with highchairs and a special menu. If you visit a new or out-of-town restaurant, call ahead and check. Some restaurants may even offer free or discounted kids meals on certain weeknights.
Tip #2: Consider Your Child’s Schedule
Don’t take children out when they're tired or crabby. They should be hungry, but go ahead and sate them with a snack beforehand if they’re starving. Bring toys so they can endure the wait and ask for the coloring sheet and crayons most restaurants offer.
Tip #3: Placing the Order
Go over the menu together and let the child feel as though she is picking out her own meal. Menus with pictures really facilitate the choosing process. When children choose their meals themselves, they’ll probably eat them.
Tip #4: Include Children in the Conversation
Eating out as a family doesn’t mean that the grown-ups order, eat, and hope the kids behave. Including children makes them feel like part of the experience instead of just being along for the ride. Once in a while go out for a meal just one-on-one with your child.
Tip #5: Dealing with a Misbehaving Child
If your child is being noisy or disruptive, take her out of the restaurant. Remind her that she is in a public place and she needs to be considerate of others. Give her time to cool down, but if your child is inconsolable, you may need to get your food to go.
Tip #6: Leave a Nice Tip
This will cover any extra mess your child creates.