Dining Out With Kids

Levi Restaurant

6 Tips to Dining Out with Kids

“You all are brave!”  “You should probably just get a sitter?”  “That’s not family friendly” “You guys are crazy”.  We’ve heard it all when it comes to taking our kids to nicer restaurants.  And I get it!  I see it both ways.  We think of it as a way to get spiffied up and do something special together.  To let our kids experience different kinds of food, soak up some culture and practice our manners.  We do realize that there are people who are there to specifically have adult time and that kids are unpredictable which makes taking the kiddies out to eat pretty scary.  There are some ways to prepare to make going out to a restaurants, even if only for a special occasion, a little more enjoyable for everyone.

1.Start ‘Em Young

We started taking our kids out with us as babies.  Of course, they weren’t really benefiting by the experience at all at that point, but I think the beginning, it is more of a practice for the parents.  It’s so much easier to stay in, and in the beginning it’s enough that you are able to fit in a shower.  I know.  And everyone will give you these offers to watch the baby while you get time with your partner.  Well, I’m not sure about most moms, but I do know that I wasn’t ready to leave my baby yet.  I mean, I was still in the “mirror under the nose to make sure we are breathing” mode.  So instead of becoming a hermit and not leaving the house until the kids were 5, we were going to have to chance it and take the baby with us so we could still feel like human beings.  Will the baby cry the whole time?  Will everyone judge me and give me dirty looks?  It’s just that initial risk you are taking that can seem scary which brings me to the next tip.

2.  Manage Your Expectations

You have be prepared to jump ship if things become too much.  And if that happens, it’s okay!  Mentally prepare yourself ahead of time that this is a crap shoot and if you have to box it all up within the first 10 minutes, it’s not the end of the world.  That happened a few times during my daughter’s “Terrible 2’s”, and we would just grab a bottle of wine on our way home, put everyone to bed and enjoy our dinner at home.  No biggie.  But I can tell you that we went to way more dinners where the baby was sleeping, kids were content or entertained and we had a lovely time and we were so glad we decided to go.

3.  Prep Work

There is some work you can do ahead of time to help things go smoothly.  Look at the menu online and have your orders in mind before you go. If the kids are old enough, talk to the kids about the restaurant and the food before to get them interested and talk often so they know what to expect.  Talk about manners and quiet restaurant voices and showing their big boy/girl skills.  If you have babies or toddler, pack bibs, wipes, plenty of diapers, an extra change of clothes just in case (pretty much the standard of going anywhere with a baby right?).  Also making reservations help so you don’t have to tack waiting time onto your evening.  Try to make them for the earliest time they open for dinner or even lunch time if they are open.   That way they won’t be busy and in the middle of their evening rush.  Less people there, less worrying about disturbing people if that is a fear of yours.

Some cute books that can help teach table manners!
How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? (Book & CD)

The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners

Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book (Pictureback(R))


4.  Make it Fun

I try to come prepared with coloring books, stickers, blank notepads, a quiet travel game, or a new small toy they haven’t seen before.  Here are some ideas of some bring-along-entertainment for dining with kids.

Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book

Let’s Make Some Great Placemat Art

Wikki Stix Traveler Playset

Carolina Pad Studio C College Ruled the Hair of the Dog Spiral Notebook ~ Hedgehog on Green Stripes (5″ x 7″; 80 Sheets, 160 Pages)

Another way to make things more fun is to let the kids order their own food. It makes them feel a part of the experience and gives them a chance to be social.  My daughter loves to order her food, making sure not to forget her “please” and “thank you”!  And if the kids get ants in their pants, offer to take a little walk on the patio or to check out the fishtanks in the corner.  My kids like to check out the bathrooms in every restaurant!

5.  Try Again

Even if it doesn’t work out or it is stressful.  You didn’t fail.  You need to just try again….and again and again to build your confidence.  When you are confident in being able to handle whatever flies you way (hopefully not literally), then you will be more relaxed with trying new places and experiencing new things with your kiddies.  It may not be the same experience as it would kidless, and I’m in no way saying ditch dates all together and never enjoy dinner by yourselves, but I will say that taking your kids with you is possible and it can be lots of fun! Don’t be afraid, don’t miss out and as always parents, don’t forget to keep a sense of humor through it all!

6. Tip REALLY well 🙂



*disclaimer, this post contains affiliate links, but don’t worry, I always believe in the products I endorse. By clicking links and purchasing, I do made a small commission, because, who doesn’t love a little extra income, am I right?


  1. Alex

    July 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Good post! Alcohol helps too.

    1. littleducksfour

      July 15, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      Haha, Alex! Alcohol is a necessity!!!

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