Tips for Dining Out With Kids

Before Penelope was born, I swore to myself that we would do our best to keep doing things that we loved doing as a family of 2. Like going out on a Saturday night, attending parties and gatherings and dining out. We just decided we'd be one of those families who continue to do things - and not miss out on life because we had a child. It's easier said than done, but in the 2+ years since P was born, we've gone on road trips, camping trips, vacationed in Aruba (twice), vacationed in Siesta Key, and gone out to countless restaurants for meals. This past weekend we did it again for Shaun's birthday brunch and it was happily another success! Today I'm rounding up some tips that have helped us when dining out with P!

Bring a snack that you know your child will eat. We order food for P, or share ours with her, but I always have a pack of fruit snacks or string cheese in her bag so that I ensure she is occupied by some sort of food.

Pack coloring books & crayons. It's an old standby and it works. I keep a small container of crayons and a Sesame Street coloring book on hand specifically for on-the-go. Even better, bring a sheet of stickers.

Order food you know he/she will eat. On Sunday, Penelope got an order of mixed fruit, a side of fries and a cup of orange juice. Not the most conventional, but trying to enjoy a meal at a restaurant is not the time for arguing about healthy food choices. I know that P will never ever in a million years turn down fruit or juice and so that was a no brainer and she was immediately excited to be at the restaurant. She also asked for fries and I obliged. Also we ordered the juice as soon as we were seated so that she could immediately enjoy it and be occupied!

Bring your own plastic plate and kid utensils. P is pretty good with real forks and glass plates, but I like to bring her own stuff just so that no one has to worry about it.

Be willing to get up and walk around. Even kids with the greatest of attention spans get antsy sitting for a long period of time. We let her take a trip around the restaurant to explore and I even brought her to the ladies room with me. She loved getting to wash her hands. And then she was ready to sit back down when we got to the table.

Bring out the big guns. I'm talking about the technology - the iPhones, iPads, tablets. I never go out to eat without my iPad fully charged for Penelope. This is a last resort, but one that works if it is needed. I have a bunch of games downloaded for her as well as a few movies. In a worst case scenario, I'll pull it out for her to chill for a few minutes with a movie while we finish eating. I don't love doing this because it feels like just parking my kid in front of a screen, but the reality is that she doesn't use the tablet all that much these days, and I'm not opposed to it for 10-15 minutes while we finish a nice meal.

So those are the rules we live by while dining out. What do you think?

Do you dine out with your kids?

What are your tips for keeping them - and you - happy in the process?


also: do you eat with your kids? and what do your kids eat?