Not every meal with the little ones needs to be a struggle; keeping some handy tips in mind can result in a meal that’s a joy for both you and the rest of the guests.
Distraction is key. A coloring book, a pad and crayons, Legos, or something they can read will be a welcome distraction for them from the tedium of waiting for food to arrive, and will help to keep them quiet and occupied. An iPad loaded with their favorite games can work, too, but make sure to turn the sound off!
After you’re done eating, don’t dawdle; it’s time to pack up and head out. The quicker you can get settled, eat, and leave, the less amount of time there will be for kids to get antsy. And if you’re sitting near others who find it impossible to enjoy a meal with a child present, you’ll be out of each other’s hair sooner.
Most people are okay with the presence of babies and children in restaurants — until they start to cry. We know that your food may have just arrived, but please, pick them up, take them outside, and walk them around the block until they get it together. You’ll quiet them down faster, and the entire restaurant will thank you.
You can get away with bringing a kid to most restaurants, but some really are for adults only. A quiet, romantic, white-tablecloth candle-lit restaurant works very hard to set a mood, and one screaming child can ruin it for everybody. Same goes for a lengthy tasting menu; sitting still that long can be torturous for kids. Do your research; if a place strikes you as child-unfriendly, either a hire a babysitter or go somewhere else.
An overtired kid is a cranky kid. Make sure that they’ve taken their nap or otherwise rested up before heading to the restaurant, or else you and your fellow diners might be in for an unpleasant meal.
If you’re going to bring a child to a nice restaurant, use it as a way to expand their culinary horizons. Don’t order them a hot dog or noodles with butter; allow them to taste “grown-up food,” and don’t assume they won’t like it. Let them order what they want (within reason), and you might discover that they’re a budding gourmand.
Not only are restaurants less crowded earlier in the evening, the kitchens are less likely to be backed up and servers usually have a little more patience because it’s earlier in their shift. There also might be early-bird specials you can take advantage of, and you can be gone before the main dinner rush begins.
If all of their meals are eaten on a couch in front of the television, going to a restaurant can be a shock to the system. Get them used to sitting quietly at a table while they eat dinner, and adapting them to the conventions of dining at a restaurant will be a lot easier.
Trying to figure out what to order at a restaurant is difficult enough even when there aren’t children in tow. Before you head out, look up the restaurant’s menu online and decide what you’re going to order in the comfort of your home.
You don’t need to mop the floors, but one of servers’ biggest complaints about kids in restaurants is the mess they leave behind. If food and other stuff fell to the floor, pick it up. If food fell onto the table, use a napkin to put it back onto the plate. If something spilled, use a napkin to wipe it up. A little thought goes a long way.