WFMW: Restaurants with toddlers

Standard

We’ve found 2 keys to eating out with kids:

  1. Go early – like 5:30-ish, before the real dinner crowd starts. And before your kids get into the night time crankies.
  2. Order the kids’ food immediately – as in, when the server comes to take drink orders. Go ahead and order their food first, it’ll come to the table first, and they can start eating while you wait on yours.  They take longer to eat anyway, and they’re less likely to fuss if they’re busy filling their tummies.

There are other things to keep in mind, like the type of restaurant you’re going to. We’ve found that white linen tablecloth restaurants typically cater less to kids than paper tablecloth or no tablecloth establishments. If the restaurant doesn’t have a kids’ menu, there’s probably a reason for that. You might want to go elsewhere if you have a choice. If you don’t have a choice, order off the menu for them. Any decent restaurant can whip up some mashed potatoes and something suitable for your kids (pasta with a creamy sauce at an Italian restaurant, fried chicken tenders at a Continental Cuisine, or a simple ham and cheese panini at a French bistro).

Crayons come in handy, and a cloth napkin makes a great bib. Variety is the spice of life, and giving the kids a couple options (say, ordering chicken fingers with a side of mashed potatoes and an added side of fresh fruit) keeps them happy a lot longer. Also giving them a special drink they don’t usually get makes the whole thing more interesting for them. We get lemonade for the kids whenever we eat out, and that’s the only time they ever get lemonade. (Note to any restaurant owners who might be reading this: If you don’t have lemonade, my kids just may drive away all your clients with their shrill, piercing protests.)

That’s what works for me. Head over to Shannon’s place for more great tips.

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10 responses »

  1. Some places have a free kid plate that they’ll bring out when you are seated, but the trick is to ask the seater, NOT the server (the server may charge you). Mimi’s Cafe and Claim Jumper are great for this.

    Also, at Red Robin, since they give you endless fries anyway, we ask for them when we sit down.

  2. Jenefur – I wish I’d known that last night! We ate a Mimi’s Cafe last night and forked over plenty of cash for the kids’ meals… Doh!

  3. Oooh, great ideas. I also like that Red Robin has a sea of balloons when you walk in the door. I tied one to E’s highchair, and it was great entertainment while we waited for the food.

  4. All right, readthemanual, how is it that we live 10 minutes from each other and I’ve never heard of half the places you go to? (Apparently you’re not sharing your ample wisdom with me.)

  5. At times, I have carried along a bag of special restuarant fun things to keep
    children busy at the table –a small magna doodle, a fun matchbox car, a mini-notepad
    and crayons, a small plastic doll with a body on each side and a head that turns around.
    These things showed up only at restaurants or doctor’s offices, so they were sort of new
    every time we pulled the bag out.

    I haven’t done that in a while, but I should try it again.

    We also do quiet games at the table while we wait for food — Simon Says (good way for
    babies to learn body parts -”tap your head . . . pull your ear . . . touch your nose), 20
    Questions, I Spy. Sometimes we get some silly looks, but most people usually seem to
    appreciate that I’m playing a whisper-game of Simon Says with my kids and keeping them
    occupied and entertained. It’s also fun for the children to have my attention on them. :)

  6. The times I go out for dinner with children I phone a restaurant.
    I go by the way they treat me at the phone.

    I prefer going to a chinese for dimsums.
    It’s mid-afternoon and they are so very childfriendly.. they really care to make it for the children a pleasant time.

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