Choosing where to dine out with adults is hard. Choosing where to dine out with kids is a downright daunting task. But fear not! With a little preparation and the right mindset, it can also be an enjoyable experience for the whole family. As a devoted food enthusiast, I’ve been navigating the dining scene with babies, big kids, teens, and young adults for the last 20 years. Along the way, I’ve picked up a treasure trove of tips. Join me as I share my top insights for dining out with kids, covering everything from choosing the right restaurant to keeping your little ones entertained at the dinner table.

Why would anyone want to bring kids to a restaurant anyway?

Let’s start by exploring why dining out as a family holds significance. While there are numerous reasons to steer clear of dining out with kids – with the top concern often being expenses – it’s important to consider the benefits.

Firstly, dining out presents an opportune moment to instill restaurant etiquette in children. As parents, it falls on us to equip them with essential social skills, including proper dining behavior and table manners. While perfection may not be immediate, exposure is key in this learning process.

Moreover, gathering around the dining table as a family cultivates vital social interactions. For families caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life, dining out offers a precious opportunity to disconnect from devices and engage in meaningful conversations.

Additionally, the joy of selecting one’s own meal cannot be understated. Allowing young diners the autonomy to peruse a menu and make their own choices fosters a sense of independence and empowerment.

In essence, while there may be challenges associated with dining out with kids, the rewards in terms of social development and family bonding are immeasurable.

How to dine out with kids without losing your sanity- 8 tips for dining out with kids

My #1 Tip for Dining Out with Kids: Choose the Right Restaurant

Choosing the right restaurant is crucial, and it’s no coincidence that this tip takes the top spot. Opting for the wrong place can result in a drawn-out meal or, worse yet, an abrupt exit – an experience even the most seasoned diners have faced.

To aid you in making the best decision, here are some valuable tips:

  1. Seek out family-friendly establishments equipped with high chairs, booster seats, and a dedicated kids’ menu.
  2. Prioritize venues known for their relaxed atmosphere and reputation for being accommodating to families.
  3. Leverage online reviews or seek recommendations from friends to pinpoint a restaurant that aligns with your family’s preferences. Conducting a swift Google search, such as “Kid-Friendly Restaurant in ______,” can be immensely helpful.

Tip #2: Plan Ahead with the Menu

Do not take your kids to a restaurant where you know they won’t eat anything on the menu. While there is a time and a place to encourage kids to try new foods, a new atmosphere for your child might not be the best one. This doesn’t mean that you have to order from the kids menu. We dine out often and have no problem getting the kids a side dish or an appetizer off the regular menu to create a meal that they are familiar with.

These tips will help you with the menu: 

  • Review the menu ahead of time to ensure there are options suitable for your little ones.
  • Confirm if the restaurant provides smaller portions or customizable options for children.
  • Opt for restaurants with a variety of finger foods and familiar items that your kids enjoy.

Tip #3: Timing is Everything

It honestly doesn’t matter whether you have small children or big kids, picking the best time to eat is going to make your life so much easier. We have found that if we want our family to be on their best behavior, we have to dine out during lunch.

Consider these tips to figure out the best time for your family:

  • Choose a time that aligns with your child’s routine, such as earlier in the evening or during off-peak hours.
  • Avoid a long wait by making a reservation, especially if dining at a popular restaurant.
  • Consider the atmosphere; some kids may enjoy live music, while others may find it overwhelming.

Tip #4: Come Prepared

As a parent, you probably already have an idea of what your family needs when you are out of the house. Every family is different and each have their own special needs.

Double check that you don’t need any of these items before dining out with your little ones:

  • Pack a diaper bag with essentials like baby wipes, diapers, and an extra set of clothes.
  • Bring a sippy cup for your child and inquire if the restaurant can accommodate special dietary needs.
  • For toddlers, consider bringing a booster seat for added comfort.

Tip #5: Be Prepared to Entertain Your Little Diners

Sitting around the table as a family and enjoying a good meal is one of the more satisfying things in life. But it can be a bit stressful if this is your first time or you have long wait.

Follow these tips to ensure a good time around the dining table:

  • Play simple games at the table as a family. A few of our favorites are 20 Questions and I Spy.
  • Carry small coloring books, activity books, or quiet toys to keep your child engaged.
  • Limit screen time but have electronic devices on hand for emergencies or as a last resort.
  • Consider bringing small toys or favorite items from home for comfort.

Tip #6: Encourage Good Behavior

I’m not saying that you need to bribe your kids, but the promise of dessert at the end of a nice goes a long way!

Here are a few other ways to help encourage good behavior when dining out with kids. 

  • Set realistic expectations for your child’s behavior and praise good manners.
  • Reinforce the importance of using proper dinner manners, even at a young age.
  • Bring along quiet toys or games to redirect attention if needed.

Tip #7: Enjoy the Experience

Enjoy yourself! Try to step outside your comfort zone and actually enjoy the experience of dining out as a family. I know it can be hard for parents to relax around young kids, but I promise that if you relax and have fun, the kids will too.

Here is how I try to enjoy the experience: 

  • Embrace the opportunity for family meals and make it a fun experience for everyone.
  • Use dining out as a chance to introduce new foods and encourage healthy choices.
  • Remember that it’s okay to indulge occasionally, even with items like chicken fingers or fries.

Tip #8: Leave the Kids at Home for Special Occasions and Date Nights 

While dining out as a family is undoubtedly enjoyable, there’s no rule that says you must include the kids on every occasion. Save those fine-dining experiences for special moments when you can savor every bite without the hustle and bustle of parenting. When planning a romantic date night, consider arranging for a trusted babysitter. This way, you can relish a more relaxed atmosphere, focusing entirely on each other and the delightful dining experience.

8 tips for dining out with kids

You’ve got this! Now go out to a restaurant and enjoy your family!

With a little bit of preparation and the right mindset, dining out with young kids can be a positive and enjoyable experience for the whole family. By choosing the right restaurant, planning ahead, and being prepared, you can create lasting memories and instill good dining habits in your children from an early age. So take a deep breath, enjoy the meal, and savor the moments spent together at the dinner table.

Like this post?

Don’t forget to follow me on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to see more of what I’m up to in real life. If you like this post, you’ll love my social media accounts too! Want to know another way you can see more of what I love? Follow me on Pinterest.  I’d also love for you to pin this post to Pinterest if you liked it!