Dining out as a family can be enjoyable for you and exciting for your kids, but it can be a challenge. Kids can get bored quickly, so here are some tips to make it easier for you to manage children when dining out.

To help keep the peace when dining out, the kids need to be able to choose the food they like and they need to have something to do while waiting for their food and drinks. Remember, you’ll need to interact with them (talk to them, draw with them, read with them, and so on) and pay them attention throughout the meal.

Make it easy

  • It’s a good idea to choose a restaurant that is child friendly.

–    Look up local restaurants online to see if they have a children’s menu (which often include familiar and easy to eat food for kids), or give them a call.

–    Find out if they cater to any allergies or intolerances you or your kids have, check out any special family deals (such as when you can buy one meal and get one free), and find out if they are BYO alcohol (if required).

  • Make a reservation, if possible. You might want to request a table near a window or a wall, or in a corner, so you’re not in the middle of everything. Also, this means you can put yourself or others between the kids and other tables, making it harder for kids to get up and run off!

Know your limits

  • If you haven’t dined out with your kids before, try it as a family a few times first, perhaps for lunch, before dining out with friends and other family members. Also, try a less formal setting first, such as a pizza or burger restaurant.
  • If you’re dining out in the evening, dine earlier rather than later, so you can get the kids home for their normal bedtime routine.
  • Avoid taking the kids out if they are sick or overtired.
  • Try not to stay out too long, 1 to 2 hours is ideal, and just have a main course and a dessert (or an entrée and a main course).
  • For babies or toddlers:

–    dining out with your baby or toddler means you need to try to find a way to keep them happy, well fed, and pay them attention while you dine, which is not always easy!

–    make sure they are well rested and have had something to eat before you go out, so they are not hungry and grumpy when you arrive

–    bring a snack and drink, so that you have something to give them if needed, while you are waiting for the food to arrive.

Plan ahead

  • With pre-schoolers and older kids, before you go out, talk to them and agree the ground rules for dining out. For example, they need to be quiet at the restaurant (that is, they need to stay at the table and not run around noisily). Make an agreement with them that if they do this, they can have dessert or a special drink that they like.
  • Bring something along for the kids to do (that is quiet) that will help to keep them entertained while everyone chooses or waits for their meals.

–    Ask the kids what they’d like to bring. For example, drawing materials (you can use these to play noughts and crosses with them or similar games), a small board game, a deck of cards, their favourite book, toy, or electronic gadget. A lollipop or two can be useful!

–    Some kids like to play under the table and this is fine, as long as they are not being noisy and are entertaining themselves.

–    Ask the staff if they have any toys or drawing materials for kids.

Put the kids needs first

  • You shouldn’t expect the kids to eat at the same time as you. Getting food quickly for the kids is helpful, so try to order their food and drink first from the children’s menu. Ask the waiter to bring the kids food out first, so the kids don’t get bored waiting for everyone’s meals to arrive.
  • It’s easier to keep the kids happy when they are eating and drinking. If they do get bored (such as in between courses), games or videos on smartphones and tablets can provide great entertainment. Walking around (with you) to have a look at things or people in the restaurant can also be a good distraction.

Dining out with your kids may not be a quiet, relaxing event, but it is an opportunity to go out as a family, spend time together, eat some yummy food, and teach your kids how to behave when dining out. Hopefully, by following these tips, you and your kids can learn to enjoy a great time and can look forward to dining out together more often as a fun and non-stressful experience!


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Rosalie Chamberlain is a freelance writer at Rapco, specialising in business, compliance, and family. She helps businesses create clear, easy to read website content, and improve their communications. She is passionate about families and enjoys providing useful information for Kiwi parents. Read more articles that Rosalie has written for Kiwi Families.

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