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By: Jennifer Gervens
Posted on: Jun 14, 2018

8 Tips for Dining Out With Kids

All parents know that dining out with kids can be trouble. From tantrums at the table to mishaps in the restroom, it’s enough to keep you dining at home until your children reach puberty. But, as Sweet T points out in this week’s blog, no one wants to spend the whole summer in the kitchen. With a little planning and preparation, you can enjoy a night out with the family, eat and maintain your sanity. Check out these quick and easy tips to keep your dining experience on track and leave the pots and pans behind. Dine on!

Summer has arrived in the South, and if you're like me, the last thing you want to do is stand in your sticky, humid kitchen, sweating over a hot stove. We don't eat at restaurants as a family often, but when we do, it's usually in the summer.

Fortunately, dining out with kids doesn't have to be torture. Here are some tips to help make your meal a pleasant one.

1. Choose a kid-friendly restaurant.

The term “kid-friendly” has evolved in recent years. Today's parents want to be able to enjoy a family evening without a ball pit and tokens being involved. With that in mind, many nice, even upscale restaurants welcome kiddos with child-friendly menu options, larger tables, and taller, more private booths.

Plus, if you have smaller kids, make sure you scope out the location of the restroom for those “waited-until-the-last-minute-to let you know I had to go” moments. If you have time before ordering, poke you head in and make sure there is a changing table available, just in case you need to make a diaper change during dinner. Even better if it’s a Koala Kare changing table with built-in protection against the growth of stain and odor-causing bacteria.

Buffets are a classic place for family meals, since there are a wide variety of options to choose from. Some places, even offer a family-style meal. This is where the meal is brought out in big serving bowls to the table and family members dish up their own plate. It's just like dinner at home, but you didn't have to cook! Keep in mind that some fancier restaurants are starting to offer “kid-free” hours, especially around Valentine's Day and New Year's. If you're trying a new place, it wouldn't hurt to call ahead to make sure you aren't crashing date night.

2. Keep it simple.

This doesn't mean that you can never try a new type of food or go to a fancy tea. I strongly believe in encouraging children to try new things when the opportunity arises. However, when it comes right down to it, most children thrive on routine and the familiar. Your 6 year-old daughter might thoroughly love attending a high tea with British “biscuits” and smoked salmon on a regular weekday afternoon. On the other hand, if you've spent all day at a theme park, she might be too worn-out and irritable to try something new no matter how fun it can be. Just use your best judgment, especially when it comes to the smaller tykes.

3. Be picky about your table.

Every time we go to a certain sport grill, they seat us directly next to the claw machine. My kids then spend the entire meal bouncing around, trying to watch people play. It makes me want to bring a lasso with me! My favorite family table is a large booth, with the fewest possible number of distractions, that’s within eyesight of the bathroom door. Some waiters also try to seat families near the kitchen. Honestly, not only is this annoying for us, but it's a poor play on their part. Who wants to have to watch for a toddler's head poking around the side of the table every time they bring out a giant tray of drinks? If you have a minute before you're seated, scope out a table you like and politely request to be seated there.

4. Scope out deals.

Lots of restaurants offer discounts, some of which are specially tailored for families with children. There are even apps for it! Check out KidsEatFree Restaurant Finder to find meal deals for your crew.

Koala Kare changing tables exclusively feature built-in Microban antimicrobial product protection, and offer parents peace of mind that the table is cleaner. Ask for Koala Kare at your favorite family restaurant!
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5. Tip generously.

Unfortunately, families get kind of a bum rap with servers. Even the most well-behaved toddler is bound to make extra work for a waitress, be it spilled drinks or a pile of dropped french fries and ketchup-crusted pickles. We try to make up for the hassle with a generous tip. This is especially true if you’ve received free kids meals or a discount. Tip on the full amount you would have paid without the discount, and if you ordered water, tip as if you’d paid for sodas. Your server still has to deliver, refill, and clean up your glass whether what you’re drinking from it is free or costs $3.

6. Be considerate of other patrons.

This should be common sense for everyone eating at a restaurant. No changing diapers at the table (even if they're “just pee” ones). No letting kids climb under tables or on chairs. No trying to catch the fish in the pond at the Chinese buffet (True story!), and no throwing food. If your children are smaller, consider requesting a Rubbermaid highchair (with built-in protection to keep it cleaner between cleanings) to avoid the mad dash around the restaurant that can happen when little children finish eating and parents are not quite done.

7. Bring activities.

Sometimes restaurants have long waits. This tends to happen on the weekends, Mother's/Father's Day, and major holidays. Bring something to keep your kids busy in the waiting area and at the table. Good ideas are electronic games (with headphones or the volume turned low), crayons, notebooks and pens, enclosed travel games, and pocket-sized play sets (Magnetic or sticker dress-ups are great!). If your phone is protected with a Speck Presido Sport case featuring Microban, you can even give them that to keep them busy – the case features extra grip and added protection to keep it cleaner.

Don't bring games with lots of small pieces such as playing cards. You'll be picking them up off of the floor all night. Personally, I just save myself the hassle by avoiding restaurants at peak times.

8. Know when it's time to leave.

Kids get fussy. They especially get fussy when it's late in the evening and they feel that mom or dad is taking their time cleaning their plate. I love my kids, but they can finish their “meal” (2 chicken nuggets and four-and-a-half fries) in two minutes flat. After they finish their food, it's nothing but whining and looking for distractions (Read: getting into trouble). After the 82nd trip to the bathroom, we grab to-go boxes and pack it in. Happily, most kiddos outgrow this stage fairly quickly, and then we can eat in peace again.

Well, there you have it - eight ideas to make dining out with your family an enjoyable and maybe even memorable experience! Whether it's close to home or on vacation there is an accommodating, fun restaurant out there for your family to love. Take some time this weekend to check one out with your children.

Child Eating