Thursday, October 10, 2013

Taking small children out to eat

We have been without a kitchen for the last couple weeks while some repairs were done on ours.  This means we've eaten out pretty much every meal or at least every lunch or dinner.  And we had our two small children in tow.  Overall everything went pretty well with us only have to have each child need to leave a restaurant one time.  Even when we don't have to eat out for every meal it's something we enjoy doing and although typically it's not more then once a week since it's so expensive we budget to allow us to eat out occasionally.  Here are some things that help us make it go smoothly.

1. We always try to avoid busy times.  And if we are going out to eat at six o'clock on a Saturday we pick our location accordingly and visit somewhere like Jason's Deli.  That is not a good time to choose a sit down restaurant.  During two weeks of eating out we only had to wait to be seated once and it was for less then fifteen minutes.  Also be wary of Chipotle during busy times.  I almost find that worse then having the kids sitting and waiting since you can end up in a very long line.

2.  Pick places where there is immediate food.  If you're going to do a sit down restaurant try to pick somewhere that there will be something very quickly.  Ruby Tuesdays has a salad bar, most Mexican places serve tortilla chips and salsa and lots of places off bread although we tend to avoid those because the kids will fill up on just bread.  If there is something for the kids to eat they'll manage a lot better waiting for their food.

3.  If you're taking kids out alone accept help when it's offered.  Most of the lunches it was just me and the kids.  When somebody offered to get me a high chair it really helped me out.  Even places like Panera where typically you get your own food will sometimes help you carry everything.  Also baby carriers that allow you to wear the baby on your back are a godsend for times when you are going to need to carry a tray, high chair or drinks.  Much easier then pushing a stroller since your hands are free.  I also make my son help.  He can carry closed drinks like juice boxes or milks. 

4.  When trying to entertain kids when possible use what is already available.  We always bring one car for each child for playing while we wait for our food.  But we also use straws for babies who want to gnaw on something.  Also for a baby learning to drink from a straw it's amazing how much they enjoy practicing that new skill while you wait for your food.  I try to avoid bringing a lot of things from home because they can end up getting dirty from food on the table or from landing on the floor. 

5.  Get the check when you get your food.  I find this makes it a lot easier to leave when the kids are finished eating.  We rarely ever get dessert at a sit down restaurant since the dinner portions are so big. 

6.  If you have to bus your own table sit by the trash can.  This makes life so much easier.  This way you can start throwing things out while the kids finish their food.  It also gives something for my three year old to do once he's finished.  I also recommend trying to be close to the soda fountain since it makes everything go smoother if you don't have to go far to fill up or refill your cup.

7.  Remember the baby wipes!  I forgot mine once and it is so much more difficult to wipe up the mess afterwards with wet napkins. 

8.  Know what you're going to get before you arrive at the restaurant.  Most menus are online nowadays and it makes things so easy if you can place the entire order when the server comes to take your drinks.  It also helps my three year old if we can get him excited about what he's going to get to eat.  So if we know they have pizza then we'll talk about pizza when we tell him where we're going. 

9.  If you have a very young one then wipe the table clean in their area and put the food directly on it.  This saves you having to worry about them throwing a plate of food onto the floor.  My fifteen month old is just starting to get nearly past this point.  It does cause extra clean up when they're finished but not really that much extra since my little ones never keep the food on their plate anyways.  We learned this the hard way when my son was around a year and threw a whole plate onto the floor at an Olive Garden.

10.  If the weather is nice eat outside.  I worry less about the kids making a little bit of noise if we're outside since we tend to be one of few people there and the noise doesn't feel as noisy in as in a quiet restaurant.  Also outside there may be a plane that will fly over or birds or something that will help entertain them.  Also my son loves to eat outside so we tell him if he wants to eat outside then he needs to listen. 

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