My kids are all school-aged, and we’ve gotten used to eating out with them every once in awhile – when the budget allows – and it’s a … nice experience. They sit in their seats, they wait for their dinner, and they don’t run loops around the restaurant while shrieking and touching everyone and everything they see.
Back when my kids were pre-school age, eating out caused a lot of stress. We avoided it at all costs, until we figured out how to make it a less torturous experience. Here’s how we made it bearable:
1. Pack entertainment. Bring “stuffies” and coloring sheets and markers. Some restaurants provide coloring sheets and crayons, but not all do. Come prepared.
2. Don’t expect too much. Preschoolers cannot sit still. Or be quiet. Ever. Choose a family-friendly restaurant. Not a fine-dining establishment.
3. It’s not a date night. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make it out alive. There will be no deep conversations, there will be no intimate moments. There will be ketchup where it shouldn’t be, and dot-the-numbers that don’t work. You’ll all survive. Barely, but still.
4. Find the humor. Making my kids laugh helps to diffuse most situations. Eating out is one of those situations.
5. Pre-order your dinner. This is the key. Look up the menu online, call ahead to order, and have it ready to go when you walk in the door. Waiting twenty minutes for food is impossible when kids are so wee. Being able to walk in, sit down, and have your food arrive a few minutes later is the key to not losing your mind.
Do you have any tips for making eating out with your kids an enjoyable experience?
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