Do you enjoy dining out with your kids? While it may not be my first choice of activities, eating out in a restaurant with the kids happens every once in a while. It gets better as they get older, but there are still challenges. You can never predict how your kids will behave.
Since we don’t do it that often, the kids love to go out to restaurants. Especially Mr. B.
Tuesday was his actual birthday, so dining out was exactly what he wanted to do.
What’s so challenging about dining out with your kids?
Let me share an example with you.
Last year at his birthday dinner, one of his brothers hurled a Thomas the Train across our table into the one next to us. Luckily, the guy, who actually caught the train, was a good sport and even guessed which train it was. Some people would not have been so nice.
Plus, there’s the whining, the fighting, and the temptation to run around the table.
But, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
So, taking into account we were going to be dining with three wild boys, we had to make a plan. Here are some tips I’ve come up with for dining out with your kids. 5 tips to make your night less stressful and more fun for mom and dad.
If you can get reservations somewhere, pick a time when a restaurant is less crowded, or even alert the restaurant you are bringing your kids, you will have a much better experience. Less wait time = Less time to be naughty
Go with the Mood of the Crowd
If you can go after everyone has taken a nap and is in a happy mood, awesome. We try to go to eat around 5 or 5:30 pm because the kids have recently woken up from naps, and it is still a good 2 hours until bedtime, so they won’t be getting cranky towards the end. It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it gives us a much better chance of success if we have happy campers.
Pick a Family Friendly Spot
This may seem like a given, but even restaurants that say they are for families are not always ideal. Sure, they may have a kid’s menu, but that doesn’t mean your kids will want to sit still there. It needs to be a fun environment that is comfortable.
The restaurant we picked for my son’s birthday was perfect. It was a Pizza place (kids love pizza,) it had live music and a light show (along with other animated objects, like quacking ducks on the wall,) and an arcade, which was in a separate room.
The twins were mesmerized by all the lights and animated objects, and even my oldest was amused. The music was an Organ, and the player took requests. Even though we didn’t request it, one of the first songs he played? The Star Wars theme! Perfect.
Make it a Man on Man Defense
When me and my husband take the three kids out anywhere, it’s stressful. Add in eating in a new place, and I’m ready to turn the car around.
Luckily, we have family close by. My Mom and Dad graciously volunteered to come to dinner with us. They love spending time with their Grandchildren, and having extra adults really helps out.
We each sat near a child, and were able to stop them from tipping over the lemonade about 12 times. It also allowed my husband to take my oldest to play video games, while we stayed listening to the music and dancing with the twins.
I know that not everyone has the luxury of having family near by when they go out with their kids, but on occasion, if you can get a friend to come with and help out by paying for their meal, it might be worth it. I know it helps my stress level, and I can actually enjoy the time rather than worrying.
Don’t overstay your welcome
You’ve all heard the statement, “When the going gets tough…” it’s time to grab one child under each arm and make a quick exit. It’s always better to leave the party before someone goes into meltdown mode, so if you notice it’s getting close to bedtime, just call it a night.
Sure our birthday boy wanted to stay, but luckily, we still had presents to open at home, which was a great bargaining chip. I’m never above bribing my kids to avoid a scene.
If it’s not a birthday or special occasion, bribe them with having dessert at home or a special show or reading a favorite book. Whatever it takes to end the night on a high note.
Overall, this year’s birthday festivities went a lot smoother than years past. I’m not sure if it’s because everyone is getting older, or if we’re just putting into practice what we’ve learned. I’d like to think it’s the latter, but whatever it is, I’ll take it.
So, how was your week? Any dining plans of your own this weekend?
Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says
We eat out a lot and have been since my kids were little. They know exactly how to behave.
Christine Cox says
These are excellent tips. We always pack a could toys to occupy some time, but my kids are younger than yours 🙂
We used to….until the Thomas the Train incident last year.
My Urban Family says
These sound like great tips! I have no idea how parents raise kids far away from the rest of their family. (Well, I guess it depends on the family haha) I’m hoping to be very close to my own parents for reasons like this!
Yes! I’m not sure what I’d do if my parents weren’t close by.
Lauren Jane says
Dining out with four on one was the WORST experience I have ever had. I 100% agree with man on man tactics. And I like to check out parenting groups nearby to get. A feel of new restaurants…like you said some are “kid friendly” but not reallt
4 on 1 does not sound fun at all. That’s a great idea about parenting groups too! 🙂
As a mother of 6 YES!! LoL Mine are now 18, 15, 13, 9, 18 months and 4 months, so now we can safely man on man defense and it is more like 6 against 2. 😉 I have 4 boys, 2 girls, (girls are 13 and 4 months) Boys are much crazier in public, but over all easier to raise, you just need to eat in a zoo. LoL I promise you WILL eventually be able to eat out in peace again, however by that time they will be teenage boys and eating out consists of buying all adult meals plus some so in reality by the time you can safely dine anywhere you won’t be able to afford it without a second mortgage. 🙂 Loved reading this.
Ha ha! I was getting encouraged reading your comment until I hit the part about how much they are going to eat 😉
Mama to 5 BLessings says
Those are good tips. We hardly ever eat out for a few reasons, we have 5 kids and it gets expensive and 2 we wind up spending 1/2 our time taking kids to the bathroom.
2 of our 3 are not potty trained yet, so that will add a whole new dynamic when/if that ever happens 😉
dining out- this is a thing once you have kids?? i mean like legally hahahahahah JK great tips!
Too funny! And not if some people had their way 😉
So true! I find eating out with kids is so frusterating sometimes. When it goes well it is amazing, when it goes badly it’s truly awful! When one kid acts up one of us leaves with her while the other eats then switches so the other one can have some too. My husband and I love eating out and really miss it post-kids. But with a baby and toddler it just is not realistic to ask them to sit still for an hour and a half at a restaurant. I have younger ones than yours but recently wrote a post on how to survive too. Planning ahead is always the way to go!
Agreed. I’ll have to come by and read your post too. Thank you!
Great tips, sounds like you’ve really learned how to make the process as easy as possible! This week was incredibly long for me, I’m glad it’s over.
Yes, me too. Hope you have a great weekend!
Inspiration Indulgence says
Great tips! When I was a child, my parents didn’t take us out to eat a lot…but my fiance and I love to go out to eat…we usually do every week (Oops!!). I know that when we have kids, we will be taking them out quite frequently. Great tips, shann!
Thank you so much! 🙂
What great tips! Following these will make your dining out experience better for everyone involved!
Your boys look so adorable in their minion hats! I don’t have kids of my own yet, but I was often called by my aunt to help with the “man on man” defense when they wanted to go out to eat. We made a lot of fun memories that way and I think it definitely helped keep my aunt sane! haha
Awesome! That’s so nice that you could help her. I’m sure she really appreciated it.
Joanne Gregory says
I always try to plan ahead for a noisy kid friendly place when I take my 2 year old grandson out to eat. Last time we took him to a fancy restaurant the chef came running out with a plate of oranges and an offer of instant chicken strips and fries as soon as we sat down.The little guy was quiet and well behaved but I know it upset the staff to have him there! And this was lunch, not dinner!
Well, that’s just silly. It sounds like he was no problem, so they shouldn’t have been upset.
tara pittman says
These are great tips! My son at age 1 threw a roll across the table once.
At least it was soft? 😉
Great tips! Going out with three kids and two adults still seems intimidating, so we haven’t tried that yet!
It really is. If you can find an extra adult or even a couple, much less stress 🙂
Love this! I have three kids of my own as well and if we decide to eat out, it’s always a little scary walking into that restaurant with the unknown of how the kids will behave! These are great tips 🙂
Debbie Woodruff says
Pizza places are great for kids. They’re designed that way. Kids can run around, play games, and generally be kids. Though I do believe as they get older they need to learn how to behave themselves when they go out to eat. That’s when short, fast meals really come into play. 🙂
Dana Peller (@Pellerini) says
We’re keeping it low key this weekend. Today is my mom’s birthday so we are cooking a surf and turf dinner at home (my sister is in town with my nephew – yay!!). Sports all weekend after that 🙂 Have a great one Shann!
Sounds like a nice one. Thanks Dana!
All great tips! I dread going out with the kiddos! Thanks for these!
Ha! You’re welcome!
All this is so true.. and we order the kids foods right away while we are still looking at the menu for outselves! (and we put in our drink orders.. since we know we will need them!) ha!
Yes! Great point…especially on the drinks 😉
Anamika Ojha says
Hi Shann, I don’t have kids now. So I don’t understand parent’s pain yet. Although by reading your experiences in your posts, could make out that its a herculean task and you have excelled in managing that… 🙂 I suggest you to write a book on Kids Management because it’s a huge topic and you have excelled in it. 🙂
Awe . Thank you!
Bev Feldman @ Linkouture says
I’m glad it went well! I have definitely had those moments with my toddler. Thankfully in a restaurant that is loud and definitely kid-friendly! I hope the dinners out continue to go smoothly.
Loud is good! Thank you!
These are awesome tips. We don’t eat out much, and when we do, it is usually a nightmare. I am definitely going to keep these tips in mind. Thanks for sharing!!!
You’re welcome. I’m glad to hear we are not the only family that has trouble eating out 😉
First, Happy Birthday to your big guy! Great tips for taking the kids out. Sure does help having your parents close by. We have 2 that are 2 years apart and they used to love to leave a mess…
Oh yes…very messy. Thank you for the Birthday wishes!
LizZ H. says
These are all great tips. They might come in handy one day potentially!
I hope so! Thank you 🙂
Karin Rambo says
These are some good tip! My little one is only 11 months old, but I can only imagine what it must be like with three boys!
It gets a little crazy 🙂
Really great tips, We take all three out at once always have, and it is time well deserved. I prefer places with lots of noise
Yes! Me too!
Erika Ashley (@erikaislittle) says
We learned how to behave really early on so I don’t think this was much of an issue for us!
Elizabeth O. says
These are so true. I’ve had a few not so nice experiences during dinners out. I have twins after all. It can get real crazy!
Eileen xo says
I remember these days and it is a struggle to go out when they are young. I remember a time when a couple asked to be moved as we were seated and them commended me on the behaviour of my children:) Now my kids are 23,21,19,11 and it is like taking a small trip to all eat out together – enjoy and all stages are beautiful
Erik Miller says
Tip #4 is the biggest one in our world. Nothing’s worse than taking our three kids out to eat, and having to play “zone defense” the whole time. Great tips, thanks!
Patty Leonard Woodland says
I don’t have children so I never had to worry about this. Sounds like you have it down to a science
What a great tips! when my two boys are young i will bring them to the restaurants. My parents would didn’t brought me to the restaurants when i was a kids.
These are all great tips Shann!
rika ag says
We eat out about twice a week. I let my kids to pick the restaurant and foods 😉 thats the key
Brittany Bergman says
These are great ideas! To be honest, even without a kiddo yet, I like to eat around 5:00 or 5:30 to beat the crowds and keep myself form getting cranky. 😉 That’s a practice I’ll try to keep up once baby is here!
Agreed. I like to eat early too 🙂
Cynthia @craftoflaughter says
These are great tips! It is certainly an adventure taking kids out to dinner and your tips will make it easier for everyone
Claudette Esterine says
After travelling/flying with children, this might be a parent’s second greatest challenge and these tips will most certainly help! 🙂
Thank you Claudette!
Tip number 5 is so important. Know when it’s time to jump ship!! ha! Great tips Shann!
Hee hee….thank you!
Fashionable Librarian says
This is rarely an easy task so suggestions are always welcome
Antonio V. says
Shann, I know this from experience, too. I have girls and they can be as rough as boys. My three year old likes to go to other people’s table and talk to them! It’s always an adventure, but I love it. 🙂
Ha! Too funny. I’m glad to hear that girls are just as much to handle. 😉
As a mom of 7 each of these tips are priceless. Navigating the waters of dining out with kids can be tricky, but these are some essential tips to consider.
Thank you so much!
You have everything planned! So amazing!
Great tips. Eating out with kids is never a easy feat, yet following these tips would sure help with the experience.
Joan Harrington says
Always enjoy your tips Shann!! For the young parent, these are awesome to remember 🙂 Thanks for sharing girl!
Thank you Joan!
Sue Parke says
We go out to eat all the time. Now as soon as we step into a restaurant my daughter immediately asks to color! I’ve started going prepared because once in a great while we go to a place that doesn’t have crayons. Oh, and I bring snacks – lots of snacks. Kid hates waiting for her food! LOL
Nice. Crayons are a great idea! Snacks too!
Great tips! We have small crafts bags prepared that we often take with us. They conatin a simple craft such a sock puppet.
That’s an awesome idea!
These are great tips – I’ll have to share them with my daughter for when she takes my granddaughters out (they’re 1 and 3), especially since the oldest one has a sensory processing disorder.
Thank you for sharing .I appreciate it .
Great tips Shann. I’m sharing this with my daughter because her boys are bad, hehe ;). And mine were too when they were little, which is why we hardly went out. If it didn’t have a playground or something the kids could let loose at, we didin’t go. 🙂
Thanks for sharing Shann! Your boys are adorable! Hope you’re having a great weekend!
Thank you, Cori 🙂 Yes, my boys have lots of energy, but they are getting better about behaving .A little 😉
These are some really great tips!!! I feel the more you take your kiddos out places, the better they are. My daughter is pretty well behaved and she’s 3. I have been out with friends who have kids 5-6 years old and they don’t know how to act since they never go out.
Very true .
Rachel (@thedigger0) says
I know taking the kids out is not funny. But I was amused right throughout the post. ‘I’m never above bribing my kids to avoid a scene.’ Hilarious. These little people can be the joy in our lives and near reduce us to a rack of nerves at their will. I have seen tantrums in shops and don’t we all just feel for the parent – we know it is not in their power to stop it. So I get where you are coming from. My friends kid once point at a big woman and called her fat and I walked the other way. I left my friend for dead – there was no way I could have dealt with it. But she managed like a trooper.
But the tips are amazing and now I can share a few with people who have kids like I know something about raising little people. Thanks for a great post.
Thank you so much Rachel . I’m lucky my kids haven’t said anything too embarrassing…yet. Thank you for reading, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂
Jonathan Key says
It’s so important to pick a family friendly spot and plan ahead!
We’ve had to opt out of family dining for now. Our son can’t handle loud crowds very often. Maybe some day in the future…
We don’t do it often, but I can understand it being hard to deal with the noise.
Love the man on man defense! I have 10 nieces and nephews, when they were younger we were unable to do the man on man defense but boy did the adults spread themselves up to keep the shenanigans to a minimum. Great tips for parents and aunties alike.
That sounds like a big crowd, but fun 🙂
Erin (@SugarCrumbs) says
Hahaha, I have 3 boys and this post is on point! It can be chaos without these tips!
Dining out with kids can be a challenge. I often see a lot of kids running around the restaurant we frequent. I’m glad my kids know exactly how to behave.
Yes, definitely a challenge.
Olivia @ Olivia's Cuisine says
Great tips! I don’t have kids but I work as a server and I wish more parents would plan everything like you. It makes everything smoother not only for you but for everybody else at the establishment too!
Thank you. So nice to hear from your perspective.
We don’t get to eat out much, maybe once every 3 or 4 months.
Liz Mays says
These are helpful ideas. I love how you plan your for your dinners to be right in that time when the kids are rested and ready to go!
Thank you Liz!
katrina g says
when i go out to eat with my family my sister is a pain so it is quite a challenge.
Oh no! Maybe these tips will help?
Shannon Hall says
This is great! I love the tip to make a reservation, that’s genius. The less waiting time, the better for sure.
Exactly. Thank you!
How stressful! But I love using the presents as a bargaining chip… it obviously can’t happen every time, but once per year is still nice! 🙂
And Possibly Dinosaurs
As a former waitress of almost ten years I’d say these tips are right on! I’ve ever actually only had a issue with older, teenage kids. They were THROWING silverware and I had to yell at them to stop, which apparently angered the one adult that was with them. My level of care was zero lol.
Ha! Good for you! Thank you for your perspective too.