Eating Out With Kids

Tricks of the trade:
-Go to kid friendly restaurants. Allow me to define “kid friendly” in these simple terms: An establishment loud enough to drown out the sound of your babbling and/or whining child, but not loud enough that you have to be 21 and over.
-Sit outside. Sure, this probably depends on where you live. With the California weather, we try to reap the benefits of fabulous weather. It’s nice to sit outside and it allows more freedom for the munchkins to roam and play while we enjoy.
-Order early. We have our favorite restaurants that we return to, and hence, we know what we want. It speeds the process along and allows us to enjoy our time after the meal so long as the kids are both still happy as opposed to playing the role of a circus clown before the meal even comes.
-Bring a toy or small non-filling snacks. We almost always bring a car for Hooper and some Gerber puffs for Van. And we don’t take the car or puffs out until we’ve hit our first wall; Always save your tricks until you need them.
-Ask for them to bring your kids food out first. Hooper eats much slower than us and it’s nice to give him a head start. It’s also nice because then he’s preoccupied and we can wait in peace for our food. Though, as you all know, many times he wants nothing to do with his food anyway. More times than not, eating out means he’ll be eating mac n’ cheese, pizza, or chicken nuggets and he’s on board with all those.
-Only eat out when you have the energy to juggle the little ones. Willy has annoyingly asked, “Why don’t our kids just sit there?!”. I get defensive every time and remind him that our children are very young and the problem is not that they won’t just “sit there” but that he has unrealistic expectations. We’ve argued over this more than once and each time I’m reminded that parenting is all about perspective. So when you go out to eat, bring a realistic perspective with you.
-Chose weekdays. We decided last minute to go out to eat on a Saturday evening and were pretty surprised when we got to one of our favorite restaurants and found an hour long wait. Waiting an hour with kids just to sit down to eat is like running a 5K before you race in a 10K: pointless. It’s nice going out mid-week as well; it breaks up the week, gives you something to look forward to after a long day at work, and because there are less people out and about your child is more likely annoy less people.
-Keep calm. I don’t know about you, but I’m bothered more by an out-of-control parent than by an out-of-control child. As parents, we all know you can’t win them all. I don’t feel the need to apologize for my child’s bad behavior and if I do apologize, I don’t really mean it. What I expect is sympathy, people! If my kid is being an asshole, don’t judge me, pat me on the back and buy me a drink. Which brings me to my last suggestion…
-Order a drink. Or have a glass of wine before you leave the house. Because, well, you know. It helps that perspective thing I alluded to.
Am I missing anything? Please share what works for you! 

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5 Responses

  • this may be a hot button, but my entry: leave the tech at home.

    I get so sad when we’re out to eat and all the neighboring tables are filled with litte one’s and their e-toys. Call my crazy {and old school}, but I think it’s so important to teach good table manners early and enjoy the moments at the table that might otherwise be missed if they’re simply watching a video.

    Am I crazy?

    ~ d.

    You’re Van looks so big in these photos! big boy. 🙂

    • I’m with you 100%… in theory, anyway. Before we had kids, we used to talk a lot of shit about the parents who stuck the a video game in front of their kid’s face. If I’ve learned anything as a parent, it’s this: don’t judge. Hooper can be such a pistol at the table. We try not to use videos on our phones as a distraction, but we do use it as a last resort. It’s not only for our sanity, but it’s for the sanity of those around us. If it becomes an issue of the neighboring tables not enjoying their meal because of my tantrum throwing kid, you better believe the videos come out to play (after a scolding, a lesson, and perhaps a breather outside). But I’m with you, I really am. You’re not crazy.

  • Good tips!! Chris and I always admire how you’re able to go out with the boys. It takes a lot of courage and patience and planning. You seem to pull it off without TOO much trouble, and we’ve been out with you to some restaurants that aren’t that kid-friendly (thinking of the one rickety high chair they pulled out from some back storage closet — ha).

  • This is an awesome list, and so true. I started carrying those crayon roll ups and some coloring sheets with me as well as little busy bags of a couple matchbox cars to entertain Ethan when we go out. Agree fully about the out of control parent being way worse.

    A few months ago now, my friend and I were out to eat at a kid friendly restaurant with our two kids. Her daughter was 2, and mine at the time was just shy of 2. It was not only a kid friendly restaurant, but it was “take your child to work day” and all of the servers had their kids tagging along. The restaurant had balloons, clowns, face painting, music, etc. for the kids and even a bounce house out in the parking lot. We’re talking “kidsville” over here. So during our meal, our two kids started babbling and making one another laugh. My son would say “BANANA!” and her daughter would crack up, etc. An older woman walked up to our table and said, “I want you to know your children are animals. I’ve raised several children, and my children have children, and I’ve never seen such little monsters. Animals! They’re disgusting!” I just sat there dumbfounded but my friend totally got into it with her about how it was rude to stand at our table with her mouth full yelling at us (it was pretty gross). She ended up asking the manager to ask us to leave because our children were “little animals.” He apologized and comped our meals. But, ugh, I haven’t been out to eat in a loooooooooooooong time because of that horrific meal!

  • Great advice, Ashley! As a mother of 2 boys, can I add a couple more? Know the menu before you get to the restaurant (you’d be amazed how many menus are posted on line) and tell the person seating you that you’re ready to order now. Tell your server to bring out whatever is ready whenever it’s ready. When your food is delivered, ask for the check. Between the time you order and when the food is delivered, take the kids outside and RUN around the outside of the restaurant at least 3 times. Extra points if there’s an elevator nearby to play in! Leave at least one person back at the table so they don’t clear your things before you get back thinking you’ve left (experience) and text the runners when the food comes. Most importantly, and you said it, don’t expect adult behavior (or better!) out of kids. If you want to have a quiet dinner and spend some quality time with your partner, get a babysitter.

    @Lindsay- in my short time as a mom, I’ve found older women to be the meanest, most judgmental and least helpful people in public places. Times have changed since they were a young mother and they’re just bitter. The most helpful– Dads traveling alone who miss their own kids.


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