Sanity Savers: Going Out to Dinner with Kids Checklist

by Nicole Hempeck on May 8, 2021

Going to dinner with kids can be a such a feat that you may choose to avoid it altogether - but sometimes, it’s just nice to have someone else do the cooking for you.

Here are some tips to make it all work, so you can leave with your sanity still intact:

Set the Stage for Behavior 

Before you enter the restaurant, set the stage for good behavior with your kids. For those who are old enough to understand specific directions and expectations, a quick reminder as to proper behavior in a restaurant setting is always a good idea.

Be clear as to noise level when talking, what you expect them to do if they want to get out of their seats, how they should address a waiter or waitress (please and thank you should be included in there somewhere) and that you expect they will eat what they order.

This is especially important if your child happens to have a friend along. It’s easy for your child to forget when they are in the midst of kid shenanigans what your expectations are - additionally, it’s a good opportunity for you to let the friend know what your family expects when out to eat so the boundaries are set out the gate.

Be an Early Bird

It pays off to be at the restaurant early when they have first seating for dinner. It will allow for you to be one of the first families seated, you will be hitting your child’s dinner hour right away so their patience will be at it’s best and you are likely to get food promptly due to the light load in the kitchen.

While it would be nice to linger over a meal, we all know that dinner with kids isn’t like date night without them in tow, so following the above early bird suggestions is wise.

Order for Little Ones Immediately & Bring Snacks

As soon as you are seated consider ordering for your littlest family members food first. Additionally,  if it’s a place where they have a standard bread basket or chips and salsa option - be certain to have that on the table to appease your little one who may not be able to communicate so well that they are hungry.

Bringing standard snacks is another good idea to help hold off hungry tummies. Impatient toddlers often do not understand that it will only be a couple of more minutes before they’ll have their food ready from the kitchen in the back, so having something to offer them is wise - worse case scenario you’re taking home some leftovers because they ate those snacks but you avoided a meltdown, which is a bigger win in this mama’s book!

Bring Entertainment

  • Crayons and Paper - I have sets of these in each and every bag that I carry. Am I the only mom that has several different bags depending on the length of time I’ll be out of the house?
  • Wikki Stix are sicks that are bendable, adhere to smooth surfaces and come with pattern cards for creating different designs and shapes for endless creative play.
  • Books

Choose a Kid-friendly location

  • Buffets are a great way to allow for independent choice as well as the ability to eat immediately when you have kids that, for one reason or another, may need to eat right away.
  • Outdoor seating allows for a more relaxed approach to noise. If the weather is seasonable or you are fortunate to live in a place where the weather is nice year around, choose a place where you can eat outdoors to offset and unforeseen circumstances that may come up.
What additional tips can you offer for keeping  your sanity while dining out with kids in tow?


Image: Flickr bowler1996p

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  • Pinchus Rose

    If I’m bringing snacks, why bother eat out? I’d rather give them a bunch of healthy snacks, put them to bed, and enjoy my night out myself! But at some point i have to admit i’ll have to teach them restaurant manners anyway. it might as well be now.

  • momhomeguide

    Good tips. My kids are good in restaurants (and older now), but when they were tots, we would go to family-style (nosier) restaurants. Bringing crayons and blank white paper helps, and ordering the kids’ meals first makes sense, too!

  • MeLisa

    I always keep crayons and a coloring book in my purse. This is helpful in any number of situations when I want my little guys to keep down the volume. This is one item you can ALWAYS find at $ stores!

  • kate

    @MeLisa - I often dream of having crayons and a coloring book with me but rarely do I find it in my too-large bag. Usually I wind up taking everything out in a mad cleaning frenzy then only have my wallet and credit cards to occupy little hands. NOT GOOD!

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