IMG_0791(Scotto’s Restaurant – in case you are a Long Island local)

More often than not whenever Bill and I ask friends to join us out to eat… we end up eating in at their place. Too many people are afraid of taking their children to a restaurant and I just hate that we are losing so many dinner companions! Sure, I like the at-home play date. But every now and then it’s nice to NOT have to worry about the clean up.

So, what’s the secret? It’s really quite simple. Start them young! The more you try to shield your kids from the experience (because you think that perhaps they are too loud or wild), the less likely you will able to have a peaceful night out as a family. When Liam was 3 months old we got right back into the groove of dining out. It is now just part of our dynamic and they know nothing else.

You didn’t start ’em young? No worries! There are a few tips I’d like to share.

Tip #1: Don’t sit your children next to one another. At first separate them. This will lead to less arguments – trust me. Each parent takes a kid. (If you have more than 2, I am sorry – but I can’t help you with that one – two will have to be together).

Tip #2: Choose a loud restaurant. For the time being, you have to let go of that quiet and quaint little spot where you and your husband first met. Reserve it for a date night. You need to be in a restaurant that is equipped for an outbreak. Something large and loud. It doesn’t have to be a chain restaurant – but those typically fit the bill. Pizzerias are also a good bet.

Tip #3: Try not to rely on toys. In fact don’t bring any. Yeah I said it. When you pack your diaper bag with a ton of toys, your child will bore of each and every one of them until you are left with none – and this brings on the tantrum. It’s just not an option! Use what you can at the actual restaurant.

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For example,

  1. Play peek a boo with your napkins
  2. Play Eye Spy
  3. Have your children clean the table
  4. Let them guess which hand the ‘X’ is in
  5. Play a counting game

That will buy you enough time to get their meal.

Tip #4: When you order your drinks, put in the order for your child. Restaurants ALWAYS bring out the food for the kids way in advance. They’ve played this game before. πŸ™‚

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Tip #5: If this is your first run – don’t order an appetizer. You have to ease your way into a relaxing night out as a family. Just deal with the main course. An appetizer can add an additional 25 minutes at LEAST. Not worth it until you are completely comfortable.

Tip #6: If the kids are starting to act up and their meal hasn’t arrived, ask the waiter to bring a bread basket. In NY, restaurants have stopped placing them on tables automatically (I guess to save money). However, if you request it, they will bring it. Another option is to take them for a quick walk or a bathroom break. Their attention spans are much smaller than ours. A trip to wash their hands can completely bring them back into focus.

Tip #7: If your child does start to throw a fit, remove them from the table and just step outside. Remain calm! It’s not the end of the world. You didn’t ruin anyone’s night – and trust me – the waiters have seen worse. Get your child back on the same page and sit back down with your party.

Even if you have to do this a few times the first night out – don’t worry! They will eventually learn how to act (the same way they learned how to behave in school or in church). Our little ones are smarter than we think.

When the meal comes, the kids are usually occupied. So you can take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back.

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And if things went really well and you are in the need for coffee – let them have a dessert. You all earned it! πŸ™‚

Do you have any tips to share about managing kids in a restaurant? Share them here!! I would love to hear what you have under your sleeve. πŸ™‚

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