How Going Out To Dinner With Your Littles Can Be Fun
When you become a parent, it can be all too easy to give up some of the little things you used to love doing. Restaurant dining might not seem worth the trouble at first glance, but it’s actually a really valuable experience for your little one, and it can be rewarding for your family to be social together. Even though there may be a learning curve, going out to dinner at restaurants with kids will be a smoother experience for everyone with some practice. Read on for our best ideas on how to make going out to eat with kids a fun and nourishing experience for the whole family. We hope it inspires you to go out for an enjoyable meal with them soon!
Why Going Out To Eat With Kids Is Important
Going to restaurants with kids may feel unpredictable, and let’s be honest, it can be. It will look different at every age - an infant may be easier to manage than an energetic toddler. If you’re looking for things to do as a family, there are a lot of benefits to dining out together like learning how to behave in different social settings and improving confidence and language development.
Here are the top reasons why going out to eat with kids is a great idea:
- Starting young makes it easier. Bring infants and toddlers to the table so dining out feels common and even comfortable as they get older. They’ll absorb the restaurant atmosphere and have a better chance at adapting sooner.
- Bonding and socializing with your family. Getting out of the house is good for you! You can connect with other adults, your partner and your little one while getting a break from cooking. Explore the menu, tell them about different ingredients, and try to keep the conversation engaging for them.
- Make it a special occasion or weekly tradition. Let them order something special, try new flavors and decide on dessert. Little ones will look forward to it - going out to eat with kids is new and exciting for them. Choose an outfit that is weather appropriate (if you’re dining on the patio, bring a hat!). Along with other summer activities for toddlers, eating out can really feel like an adventure for little ones.
- It improves social skills, communication and manners. Learning how to act appropriately in a restaurant teaches good manners and social behavior, and how to be quiet and mindful of other people. Tell them about proper dining out behavior and model it for them - little ones learn best by doing!
- It can help develop a diverse palette. Whether or not they are showing signs of picky eating, dining out at restaurants with kids offers up a lot of dishes you may not have on the menu at home. You can order a few appetizers and have your little try a bite of each.
How to Prepare for Going to Restaurants with Kids
The best way to try going out to eat with kids is to prepare yourself to respond quickly and switch gears if needed. You may also end up happily surprised by your little one’s easygoing attitude. We know that how to eat out with kids requires some planning so read on for all the tips you will need to make it a meal everyone will want to savor.
Though we can’t predict how little ones will act in public, here are our best ideas for how to prepare to dine out at restaurants with kids:
- Choose a kid-friendly restaurant that’s close to home. You may be surprised by how many popular restaurants actually cater to young families (and we don’t just mean chains). Call ahead to make sure they have high chairs or booster seats, or bring your own, and take a few bibs and extra wipes. Always pack your fully-stocked diaper bag and changing pad too.
- Time it properly. We want to avoid an overtired or hungry little one, especially in a public space with a lot of stimulus. Aim for an early bird dinner 2-3 hours before bedtime (it’s usually less busy at this time too). Make a reservation for 5pm to give you plenty of time to get home for an 8pm bedtime.
- Pack snacks and nursing gear. Be prepared with food in case service is slow (cheese and crackers, granola bars or fruit), and consider cooking your little’s favorite dish to bring along - just in case. If you are nursing or bottle feeding, bring everything you need in the On The Go Pouch like bottles, napkins, a nursing cover and a burpy cloth.
- Bring old school entertainment. Instead of propping up a tablet in front of them (which is tempting, we know), bring along educational and transitional objects like favorite toys, crayons and coloring books, and playdoh you can stash in a mini pouch.
- Choose the best seat in the house. We’re not talking about the one with the scenic view. Request a corner table that is tucked away from other diners to give you the most privacy. It might be easier for you to relax if you know you have some buffer space!
- Have an exit strategy. If your little is fidgeting or getting a bit fussy, take them to the restroom or outside for a few minutes to settle down together. You can always request takeout boxes and the bill as soon as your food arrives just in case you need to get them home quickly.
After exploring some fun activities for toddlers with your family, going out to eat with kids is a fulfilling end to a day well spent. Testing the waters is key, and remember to pack all the just-in-case items to anticipate your little one’s needs. How to eat out with kids is a skill every parent learns like any other and it can take practice and patience. From infants to preschoolers, we hope this guide inspires you to try dining out at restaurants with kids at every age!
Frequently Asked Questions
Once they are over 12 months, children will get better at using spoons and forks as fine motor skills develop. They may continue to eat a lot of items with their hands since it’s quicker and easier.
Most kids will start playing with their food and tossing it on the floor when they are full, tired or protesting a particular food. If your toddler is throwing food to get your attention, sit with them. Try serving smaller portions and if they continue to throw food, say “looks like you’re all done” and finish the meal.
Engage your little one with creative questions to gain insight into their thoughts and feelings. Ask them what the peak and the pit of their day was, who their favorite and least favorite teacher is or which fantasy world from a movie, TV show or book they would visit if they could.