Parents: Top 10+ Ways to Make your Family’s Dining-Out Experience More Enjoyable


This family is not having fun

This family is not having fun!

  1. Don’t head for a restaurant when your kids are super-hungry!  That’s right.  You can handle it, but not your kids.  Look at it from the three-foot level… waiting 20 minutes for anything in one place is not easy.  Then add the wonderful smells of the food around you and it’s no wonder kids often go non-linear.  Offer a snack or appetizer before arriving at a restaurant, something like fruit or crackers to take the edge off your child’s hunger.  That will remove one of the two biggest agitators for kids.
  2. Ask the wait staff for kids’ activities such as crayons and activity books.  Sometimes the restaurant will stock those but forget to hand them out when you walk in.  Other times their unstated policy is that they will only give out such items if asked to.  If they have nothing, tell them about Classy Kids!
  3. Pack an activity of your own in case the ones given out by the restaurant are boring (many restaurants still don’t stock anything to engage kids believe it or not) .  You can find content on the Internet for free such as downloadable coloring pages – we offer a few on our site that you can download for free (click here).  Print them and ask your child to color you a picture.  This will give your child a sense of purpose while waiting and might get them to the 10 minute mark.  Longer if you join in and make it a family craft-type project.
  4. Invest in a tablet or portable DVD player if you can afford it.  For between $50 and $150 you’ll have a device capable of putting kids under a spell anywhere, anytime.  If you have a smartphone like an iPhone you can download a cartoon movie or TV show right on the spot and put it in front of your child.  An instant spell of tranquility will come over them, auto-magically.  This is when screen time is just fine!
  5. Talk to your child about what you expect from them before you head out.  Let them know they’ll see lots of people in fancy clothes going out to talk with each other using inside voices, and that they will be mad if we use outside voices.  Then watch your child take an interest in observing these strange beings.
  6. Select a booth where you can block your kids in just by sitting on the ends.  They might drive you nuts but you’ll avoid the situation where they dart off and start embarrassing you – or worse yet run into someone.  We know of a case where a child ran into an elderly woman and knocked her down.  An ambulance had to be called.  No one had fun that night.
  7. Be smart about the times and places you choose to eat.  Lists are available of family-friendly restaurants.  Every restaurant will be a better experience before the place gets packed and service slows down.  For heaven’s sake if you’re going to a restaurant that is going to take 2-3 hours in total, spring for a babysitter if possible.  It’s just so hard for a young child to sit still for that long.  It’s not their fault, they have ants in their pants.
  8. Use the straps for infants & toddlers in high chairs.  If you’ve ever turned to see your child stand up or climbing out of a high chair, the sudden rush of adrenaline you get to catch them is going to set you on edge the rest of the time you’re there.  It can get much worse.  There are numerous cases of injuries to children because they climbed out of high chairs when a parent wasn’t looking.  Terrible head injuries.  Don’t let this happen to your family.
  9. If all else fails take your child without a word outside to talk with him or her about the bad behavior.  The change in scenery will make it clear that you mean business.
  10. Remember to relax and enjoy.  There’s no need to come down like a ton of bricks if your child lets out a squeal, though not saying anything about an outburst could lead to a snowball effect.  Keep your blood pressure down and be sure to praise your child when they behave like you want them to.
  11. Bonus tip:  Order some ice cream for dessert if the outing is going well.  It’s great positive reinforcement for the next time you go out.  For example, “Remember the last time you behaved well, we all got a special treat at the end”.
The way dining-out should be

Your family’s next restaurant experience can be a great one!

Carol Mesalic is GM of Product Development at Family Hospitality Group, makers of Classy Kid Products that make dining out a pleasure for everyone.  (This article may be redistributed if the citation is left intact.)

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