We’ve found 2 keys to eating out with kids:
- Go early – like 5:30-ish, before the real dinner crowd starts. And before your kids get into the night time crankies.
- 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.