How to Take Kids Out to Eat

By Shannon Gosney
In Blogging Randomness
March 9, 2010
14 Comments
2036 Views

We have 3 boys (ages 6, 4, and almost 2) and going out to eat can be challenging.  We go out to eat maybe twice a month in a sit-down restaurant – nothing fancy with candles or quiet and peaceful music – lol!  I don’t feel like we have completely mastered the art of eating out with little kids, but we’re getting there.  Believe it or not, there are some tips we’ve found to make the adventure enjoyable!

(1) Go out to eat before the kids get hungry and tired.  Being hungry and tired is a bad combination I’ve found in the men in my life.  For my husband, he gets growly when he’s hungry and tired, so I just keep my distance until he’s eaten or had sleep.  With my boys, when they get hungry and tired, they get loud, hyper, and out of control.  So, to have a successful eating out experience, it’s ideal to go before the dinner rush.  Any time from 4:30-5:00 is good on the weekend.  5:30 seems to be when people make their dinner rush to restaurants around town.  During the week, I try to give them a light snack before going out to eat.

(2) Order ahead of time.  This is one of the best ways we’ve found eating out to be successful when going to familiar restaurants.  We’ve done this with PF Changs, Terriyaki, and other restaurants.  We have the Internet and can access the menu online.  We call the restaurant from the road (unless it’s up the street, then we call from home) and place our order.  When we get to the restaurant, we are seated and our food arrives in 5 minutes or less.  This is great to do during the weedays.  I wouldn’t recommend doing it at big restaurants (i.e. PF Changs) during the weekends.

(3) Bring coloring books and crayons.  You can either call ahead to see if the restaurant has a children’s menu and crayons or bring your own.  When kids get bored, mischief happens.  In a restaurant, there are tons of opportunities for mischief, including pulling sugar packets out of the container and scattering them on the table and floor, shaking salt and pepper shakers on the table or floor, digging ice out of the cup of ice water, sliding off the seat under the table and trying to escape to explore the new surroundings, and making lots of noise.

(4) Bring a snack.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve ordered and it seems like an eternity before the food actually comes to the table.  To avoid having the kids get into things, I try to remember to put snacks in the diaper bag.  Snacks include Goldfish, pretzels, Cheez-Its, and Honey Nut Cheerios.  I give each boy his own bag (1 for George as well – lol) and this seems to hold them over until the meal comes.

(5) Order for the kids first.  If you aren’t sure what  you want, order for the kids first, look through the menu, and then order your entree when the server returns.  This way, the kids will have their food sooner and can start eating instead of getting into things.

Like I said, I have not perfected the art of eating out with kids, but have found these tips to be helpful to our family.  What are your tips for eating out in a restaurant with kids?

About Has 4151 Posts

Shannon Gurnee is the author of RedheadMom formerly "The Mommy-Files", a national blog with a loyal following. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development with a Minor in Business Management. Shannon and her husband, Frank, have a large family with 6 awesome kids and love living on the Central Coast near San Luis Obispo, California, as well as traveling around the world. A full-time Social Media and Professional Blogger, Shannon also serves as a National Brand Ambassador for many well-known companies. Her blog focuses on motherhood, family fun activities, traveling, fashion, beauty, technology, wedding ideas and recipes while providing professional opinions on products, performances, restaurants, and a variety of businesses.

14 Responses to “How to Take Kids Out to Eat”

  1. The Gosfam says:

    I agree with snacks, activities, and order their food first. My girls eat slow. So it is perfect timing by the time the adults food arrives they have time to still finish their food and not feel rushed. We enjoy eating out for the most part 🙂

  2. Jessica says:

    These are some GREAT tips! My twins will be a year old next month and we have JUST started taking them out to restaurants about once a month. It can be crazy, but as long as we pack a bag full of toys and snacks, they are good to go. I never thought about ordering for the kids first… I will definitely keep that in mind!

  3. Badger Mom says:

    These are all great ideas. We’ve done our share of them as well. I carry a tote with me with coloring books, crayons, I Spy Bags, granola bars, and some books. Seems a bit cumbersome sometimes but hey, you do what you have to do to try and have an enjoyable evening, right?

  4. Great tips! We always order for the kids as soon as we sit down – when we are ordering our drinks. Their food usually comes out right after we’ve ordered ours and it takes them forever to eat so everyone ends up happy. I’ve never thought of calling the order in ahead though. That’s a wonderful idea for a super busy night when everyone wants to eat right away.

  5. Tara says:

    I too have 3 boys, ages 7, 4, & 11 mo. We eat out maybe 1x a month. On the off chance we decide to go anywhere, we too bring an assortment of items. Coloring books, small action figures, baby toys, my itouch for games, my older son’s DS if he remembers it. It’s amazing how distracted they can get and the the food arrives. We keep a bag in the car & it goes everywhere with us. The boys love to replenish it themselves with whatever item they are interested in at the time.

  6. Katy M says:

    Great ideas. I totally agree…that timing can be everything when you’re going out with the kiddos! I love going early for lots of reasons, but the kids being in better moods is surely at the top!

    I hadn’t thought about ordering ahead of time. That’s so smart! I forgot about the places around here that do that. Kids are used to sitting down at the table (at home) and the food is already there. The waiting is the toughest thing so many times!

  7. Bonnie says:

    Thanks for the tips! My boys are 4 and 6 – we usually take them to a restaurant twice a month. I’ll try ordering their food first. Thanks!

  8. Noreen says:

    Also tell the server to bring out the food when each is ready instead of waiting until they are all ready. We love going to anthonys and doing the sunset special (well we have not been in a while as they are far from us now) and we always asked for the salad and appertizer to brought out together and not wait for us to finish one before the next thing is brought.
    Lastly we usually order an appitizer as their meal. They are usually healthier than the kid meals and our kids don’t like most kid food from resturants.

  9. I completely agree with what you said, I think you hit everything on the nose! The most important thing you said and that I agree with is to make sure that the kids are not over tired or already super hungry because you know you will have to wait some.
    Living so close to Disney World, we get TONS of people who have spent all day at the park and the kids are already cranky and tired, then the parents expect them to sit quietly at a restaurant while they eat dinner… it is NOT going to happen, folks. Please take your kids into consideration.
    Thanks for the great reminiders, Shannon, you are such a terrific mom!

  10. Shawna OBrien says:

    I’ve got 2 boys ages 7 and 3 and eating out with them can be challenging. I really enjoyed reading your tips there all very applicable. My kids are usually fine as long as the food comes fast enough. I can always tell when a waiter or waitress understands kids because they will do things like bring some crakers and like when placing the drinks on the table, please don’t place them in front of the toddler that’s how I started our meal off with soaking wet pants.

  11. fancygrlnancy says:

    thanks for the tips.. I had not thought about the ordering ahead.. great idea.

  12. […] recently found Shannon’s blog and I’m totally loving it.  She has useful posts like How to Take Kids Out to Eat.  She has written tons of reviews varying from books to DVDs to tv shows.  She recently posted a […]

  13. This is a great post. I never knew you could order ahead of time! We take our kids out to eat several times each month and are sticklers for good behavior. If they begin to grumble, they are immediately taken outside to regroup. Sometimes, I seriously cannot believe the behavior parents allow in restaurants and their selfishness in not removing them from the restaurant when they get out of hand. I have left many meals early because my children couldn’t handle it. It’s part of being a good parent for your kids and the community!

  14. Elena says:

    Great tips! Eating out with kids could be really difficult

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