Inside: How to successfully dine out with kids of any age.
How to Successfully Dine Out with Kids
If you’ve read my post on meal planning, you’ll know that our family eats at home most of the time (Need a boost with your meal planning? Check out my Ultimate Meal Planner Bundle and make meal planning easy!)
However, every once in a while it’s fun to go out as a family and enjoy a dinner where someone else does the cooking AND cleaning!
The girls love to join us on adventures out of the house, and most of the time everything goes smoothly — but we DO plan ahead! Dining out with kids can be a wonderful experience, if you make a few preparations to ensure success.
When we go out to eat with kids at a restaurant, here is what we do to make sure it’s a breeze:
1. Pack lightly
If you have a baby, you likely carry a diaper bag. However, once a baby is a few months old, you probably don’t need to have it glued to your side.
I have a small Skip Hop Cross-Body Diaper Clutch that holds the bare necessities: a few diapers, small case of wipes, fold-up changing mat, small towel, and an extra onesie.
If we’re parked within walking distance, I leave the diaper bag in the car because our toddler can usually get through a meal without a diaper change, but it’s nearby in case of emergency.
If we’re at a restaurant inside a mall or a similar situation where it would be a hassle to get back to the car, the bag is fairly light and unobtrusive so I can easily toss it over my shoulder. Otherwise, I only carry a medium/large purse that has room for a few essentials for both me and the girls.
2. Bring entertainment
We prefer to engage with the kids as opposed to distracting them, but sometimes it helps to have something to keep them busy if dinner takes longer than expected.
We always have a toy for our youngest and a small notepad and pen for our oldest. Both items easily fit in my purse and are right at hand if the kids start getting antsy.
We generally have a no cell phone or tablet policy at meals, though I don’t judge. If the going gets tough and a game maintains the peace, you gotta do what you gotta do!
Another idea is to look for family friendly restaurants, with activities for kids like sandboxes as built-in boredom busters!
3. Serve appetizers
By this I mean a snack that you bring, for example, a plastic baggie of fruit/veggie puffs.
Even if you’re ordering apps from the restaurant, there’s still a wait while drinks, order taking, and food preparation take place and a baby just isn’t going to understand or care. Keep her hands busy and her tummy full!
4. Wet wipes can do triple-duty
Need to wipe down the table so you can let the baby eat puffs off it? Wet wipe it!
Toy falls on the floor? Wet wipe it!
Baby smears food all over hands and face? Wet wipe it!
Kids leave a mess on the table? Wet wipe it!
That was actually four uses for wet wipes, so you get the point — they rock!
I always have a travel sized pack in my purse and car or at the very least, I have a moist towelette packet I saved from a previous restaurant outing. My grandmothers taught me well about preparedness!
5. Ask for the check when your meal is served
When dining out with small children or babies, they will let you know when they are done. And when they are done you have mere minutes to escape safely before a meltdown ensues.
If you have the check taken care of in advance, you can make a quick getaway if necessary.
6. Have fun!
Remember that a meal out with with family is supposed to be fun, and the kids don’t have to be perfect.
They might squirm, but as long as their behinds stay on the seats I’m ok with that.
They might get a teeny bit loud, but they probably aren’t as noticeable as you would think — restaurants themselves are usually noisy places.
If you’re stressed, the kids will pick up on it, so sit back and enjoy a dinner that you didn’t have to make, and let someone else do the cleanup. If you’re like us, family restaurant trips don’t happen very often, so make the most of it.
7. Don’t despair if you have a “disaster”
It happens to the best of us!
We’ve had the 10-wipe blowouts where we thanked the heavens we actually DID have that spare onesie on hand.
We’ve had epic spills.
We’ve had those times where a tired baby just needs. To. Go. To. Bed. Now.
But those occasions are the rarity. And just remember, if a dining disaster strikes, someone else has probably had it worse.
So just take a deep breath, get the heck out of there, and try again another time.
How often do you eat at restaurants with kids? What are your “secret weapons” for a successful outing?