Before kids, my husband and I really looked forward to trying different restaurants on our date nights. My husband is an adventurous eater and over the years he has taught me to love food from around the world.
But after kids the thought of eating out at a restaurant without help (thanks mom and dad!) and two or three small children felt overwhelming.
After a few months of avoiding restaurants, I knew there had to be a better way. Certainly things change when you have children, but we didn’t want to give up the occasional joy of eating out.
Along the way, we found a few ways to actually ENJOY dining out with our kids.
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Now I’m not going to say our kids are angels every time we eat out, but for the most part they listen and look forward to it as much as we do. We only ever had to leave a restaurant one time due to a crying toddler 😉
So here are the 5 tips for dining out with toddlers and young kids.
5 Secrets to Enjoyable Meals Dining Out With Kids!
First, be prepared and stock you diaper bag before you go.
Whenever I go to Target I usually find a few new coloring books or small activities in their dollar bins to stash away for times like this. Our kids love the excitement of “playing” with something new.
As we wait for the food to come they are usually entertained by coloring, games or small toys. We recently added Brain Quest decks to our diaper bag and the kids love answering the questions to pass the time. Another great activity that is easy to pack are Eye Found It cards.
We’ve also found it helpful to pack a few small snacks in case the food takes extra long to come to the table.
Second, go to dinner early!
We like to go to the restaurant before the crowd. This helps with wait time and crowd control. We also feel like if one of our kids is a little loud it won’t disturb as many people.
Plus we usually eat on the earlier side at home so it’s not pushing the limit of hunger.
Third, prep the kids.
Occasionally, we take simple things like going to dinner for granted. But for our kids this may be a new experience and new experiences can be scary.
To help calm their nerves we like to talk about what will happen and what to expect at the restaurant. We also give our kids a chance to ask questions.
During this discussion, our kids are also told what will happen if they get too loud or refuse to listen to our instructions during the family outing.
Take the Plunge
Fourth, do it often!
Sometimes it’s just easier to stay home right? You don’t have to deal with whining kids or wait times.
But I’m going to argue you miss out on the chance to eat a dinner where you don’t have to wash the dishes after if you always stay home. Besides it provides a great chance to bond as a family.
So do it often and your kids learn to love it. It really is easier each time. Your kids understand the expectations and you relax a bit. Which leads me to the final secret.
Last but not least, relax.
Kids feed off our energy. I’m preaching to myself here, but kids know when we feel worried! I’m finally learning this third time around to relax a bit. It’s okay if my son gets ketchup all over his shirt (that’s what oxyclean is for right?) and it’s okay if a little water spills on the table.
When I go with the flow I find we have a much more enjoyable time!
So what about you? Do you go out to dinner with kids often? How do you enjoy your family time and save your sanity while eating out with kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts!