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Dining Out with Kids

Dining Out

So you're planning on dining out with the kids, and you've decided you'd rather try something a step up from the usual pizza place with the singing puppets? Here are some tips to ensure that your family dinner goes smoothly for you, your kids, and the other customers.

  • Ask around to find out where your friends take their children to eat. Drop by the restaurant and check it out before you commit to dining out with your kids there.
  • Know your kids! Some children are quiet and attentive, and quite capable of sitting still and using good table manners in any restaurant. Some children may be active or impulsive, and unable to tolerate a restaurant with low noise or slow service. And some kids simply can't function in noisy places and require a restaurant that's calmer and quieter.
  • Prepare your kids in advance. Make sure they understand your expectations, and that they are properly motivated to rise to the challenge.
  • Make sure the meal matches your kids' tastes. Are your children adventurous and willing to try new foods, or would they prefer to stick to the old familiar standbys? Is dessert a good motivator for them to behave properly?
  • Decide whether or not to take all of your children at once. If parents are dining out with two kids, they can handle them one on one. With three or more kids, they'll be reduced to playing zone defense.
  • Some smaller, family-run restaurants may be more tolerant of kids, as their own children may have been running around the kitchen for years. However, don't make this assumption without checking the place out first.
  • If the restaurant doesn't have a high chair available, you should probably consider taking your kids somewhere else.
  • Try not to take your kids out to eat when they're tired or cranky.
  • Tip well, especially if your kids have been messy, noisy, or otherwise high maintenance. If you get a good server, ask for his or her table the next time you go to that restaurant. An attentive staff always makes a meal more enjoyable. If they remember you (in a good way), your family may get superior service when you return.
  • Don't wait until you're ready to leave before you pay the check. Pay it as soon as it comes. That way, if your kids get frazzled or start acting up, you can beat a hasty retreat.
  • Children usually do well at buffets. They can see the actual food, make choices, and serve themselves quickly. Plus, buffet food tends to be less exotic, which is a definite advantage when dining out with kids.

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