7 Strategies for Eating out with Little Kids!

Going out to dinner is a huge treat for me! I work full time and make dinner every night for my family. It is exhausting, the meal planning, the cooking, the cleaning…all of it! So when we decide to venture out to dinner, this is a huge deal for me! I get to sit down and eat, this almost never happens! Everyone gets to order what they want and I don’t have to prepare it or clean up after…I love it! But the idea of going to dinner with 3 children ages 5 and under could be scary to some parents. I have friends that avoid going out to dinner with their children all together. I am here to tell you, you can do it. You can go out to eat with your kids and enjoy it! This is not to say that going out to eat with kids will be ANYTHING like going out to dinner without them. Here is how we survive it!

Bring Busy Bags! 
What is a busy bag? Check out my Pinterest page. I have lots of ideas here! Busy bags are great and can be age specific. My MOMs club had a Busy Bag Party, best idea ever! I was able to get so many different busy bags from this event. I highly recommend getting together with friends and doing a party/exchange!

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Busy Bag I made with Popsicle sticks, printed images, and glue

Bring Coloring Supplies
Believe it or not, a lot of places do not have coloring supplies. Or if they do, they are weak. So I recommend bringing a coloring book and some crayons. Since becoming a mom, I have a coloring book and crayons in a zip lock bag in my car at all times. Also, bring blank pieces of paper. Older kids like playing games like hangman and tic tac toe. Younger kids like to create their own masterpieces.

Electronic Devices are a Must
It’s 2015, as far as I am concerned there is nothing wrong with my kids watching or playing on the iPad quietly while waiting for dinner. We use these as a LAST resort though. These are only pulled out after the busy bags and coloring supplies have been exhausted. We only allow the kids to use these while waiting for food, they are put away once the food comes.

Order like a Seasoned Parent
We have learned to order dinner and have everything brought out at once! Yup, appetizers, meals, and even the kid’s food…all at once! A common mistake I see a lot of parents make while eating out is that they order the kid’s dinners right away. Mistake, once the kids have eaten they are ready to go. We tell the server the following when they come to take the order “please bring all the food at once: salads, apps, dinners, and kid meals”. Once the food comes, we know we have about 20 mins to enjoy it before we lose the kids! LOL!

Engage your kids
My husband and I divide and conquer with our seating arrangements. We each take care of either the older girls or the toddler. While sitting and waiting, we make sure to talk to them, color, and play games with them. We do try and talk to each other while this is going on and are somewhat successful!

Timing is Everything
We usually eat dinner around 5:00pm. So when we go out to dinner we arrive around 4:30/4:45pm. This way the kids are hungry when their food comes but not starving crazy maniacs that are screaming and yelling.

No Bread
This is so important. We usually just let the kids have 1 small piece of bread…or sometimes no bread. If they are full when the food comes out, they are not going to want to sit their and watch you eat your food.

Sit Outside
Sitting outside is a lot more forgiving then inside at most restaurants. Kids can be loud or maybe even get up and walk around if needed. We do not encourage this, but sometimes it is necessary! Sitting outside also gives the kids something to look at other then the restaurant walls. While on vacation in Lake George, we went to 1 dinner out. We picked The Algonquin because of the outside dining area. It was right on the lake and had private docks. The girls loved seeing the boats and ducks!

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Enjoying dinner on the dock in Lake George

Do your best to not set your expectations too high when dining out with kids. Do not think that eating out with little kids is always going to go smooth. And do not think that it will be a peaceful event. Don’t get me wrong, we still have fun and enjoy eating out with our kids!

And remember “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” (Vince Lomdari) In other words, set your expectations and let everyone know what they are. Practice, practice, practice!!!  Kids are going to mess up, correct the behavior and try to move on. Enjoy your family dinners!

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