In your formative pre-parenting years, chances are that you rolled your eyes when you were eating out and encountered a table full of unruly children. As with everything related to parenting, you just don't have any clue what life as a parent is like . . . until you are one.
Now that you have young children yourself, you're debating if you should try to pack up the kids and attempt eating out as a family. If you're second guessing the decision, rest assured that you don't have to confine yourself eating at home until your children turn 18. Here are some tips that can help you have a successful dining experience in a restaurant, in public, with children.
Practice Makes Perfect
You can't just expect that your children are going to act like little angels when you take them to a restaurant. Just like they don't know that running with scissors or jumping off of a couch isn't safe until you explain otherwise, your kids don't know that what is expected of them when they dine in a restaurant.
Take the time to practice table manners and explain expectations when you dine at home. Model appropriate behavior; invite toys to the dinner table and ask your children to emulate proper table manners. Be diligent about reminding them to make wise decisions.
Choose a Family-Friendly Restaurant
It should go without saying that you shouldn't choose a five-star restaurant where other diners may be put off by children that may act up. Likewise, you should avoid picking a restaurant that specializes in food that your children aren't familiar with, as there's a pretty good chance that you're setting yourself up for failure when they don't foods they like on the menu.
Instead, choose a family-friendly restaurant where children are welcome, and one that serves a menu specifically for children.
Make sure you plan your dinner outing appropriately. Don't go out to eat when it's close to your child's naptime, and avoid going out when your little one has been having an off day. Take your child out to eat when she is well rested and she is in a good mood, otherwise there's a pretty good chance that you're going to be dealing with a meltdown (and glares from other diners.)
Don't leave your house without supplies to keep your little ones occupied while they wait for their meal to arrive. Toys, coloring books, a tablet; bring along anything that will keep your little one entertained. Even if you don't end up using what you brought along, it's still better to have it on-hand than to risk hearing the dreaded "I'm bored" throughout your entire meal.
Keep Your Cool
No matter how much you prepare for your family dinner out, there's always a chance that your kids won't act like the perfect angels you know they are. As you know by now, kids can be unpredictable. If a your son throws a piece of bread at your daughter and it lands on the table next to you, keep cool, calm, and collected. Apologize to the other diners, redirect your children and remember that kids will be kids.
Dining out with young children can certainly be done. Just keep these tips in mind and remember to be flexible. Try kid-friendly restaurants like Buffalo Phil's Pizza & Grille.