I love food and I love to eat out. Delicious food with no clean up? It’s a winner. Going out for a nice dinner is one of my favourite things to do and I spend far too much time at coffee shops than is normal. When I was pregnant I was determined that I would still go out just as much as I did before and I wouldn’t let having a child stop me from doing what I want to do. Everyone does the same thing don’t they? They convince themselves that their baby/toddler will just go along with them while they continue their usual life. Then the baby comes and you realise what a naive fool you actually were, so I thought it was about time I collated all of the Top Tips for Eating Out with Kids in one place.
I realised, eating out with a child comes in stages. I can only speak from my own experience for the first few stages so I reached out to some fellow bloggers to see what their advice was for eating out with their children.
I don’t generally have tips here except, GO OUT ALL THE TIME. Babies sleep a lot when they are new so make the most of them being small and portable. They are no more hassle than taking out a large bag in my opinion at this age. Just leave them in a car seat or pushchair and enjoy your meal or your coffee in peace.
It gets a little trickier here, but not much. They are more likely to be awake, luckily they also retain all of that cuteness which means people are less likely to hate you if they are doing that noisy grunting babies of this age tend to do. Take milk (or boobs with milk in, preferably your own) and a teething toy and you should be good to go. Maybe don’t go to a fancy restaurant, just in case they decide to do that thing where they cry hysterically for no reason whatsoever. Oh and whatever you do, don’t change their nappy at the table. People hate that. Its pretty gross.
‘If they’re babies make sure you can fit the buggy by in without people knocking off it, or peering in every time they walk past, once they’re a bit older give them something to occupy their hands that won’t drop on the ground every 5 minutes (the gummee glove is a life saver)’ – www.2nerdsandababy.com
Things are challenging now. Baby is most likely on the move in one way or another. Crawling or cruising. They are very unlikely to want to sit in their pram or highchair for any length of time. However, they are also most likely weaning at this age too…which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you can give them something to hold/gnaw at and this will take them entertained and occupied for a bit. A curse because they want to have their food immediately and are likely to make a ginormous mess. There are a few things you can do to make it easier though:
‘Eat early so the restaurant isn’t too busy and take snacks (breadsticks, raisins etc) in case the service is a bit slower than the children can cope with’ – www.bammboo.co.uk
‘If you are taking a baby-led weaning baby out, take LOTS of wipes! The mess can’t be controlled as well as it can at home so we try to clean up as much as we can and leave a big tip for the staff who continue to smile at us through gritted teeth! We try to choose somewhere that has an unlimited salad bar so we can keep him busy with bits of pineapple/tomato while we wait for the food to arrive.’ – www.mummytodex.com
‘Allow yourself and your child to relax while eating. Take a vest or bib in your bag, depending on the age of your child, and allow them to have fun. You can always offer to sweep up the floor in the restaurant anyway.’ – www.katykicker.com
‘Lots of practice is the key. If you share meals together at home and do this from the time they are weaned, you will have little issues with taking them out later on as the same rules apply out of the house as they do at home. I’ve done 2-hour sit-down meals with my then 10m-old in restaurants where he has not been an issue at all. Waiting times were used to sample bread, explore toys and read books in his high chair. I found there was plenty going on to keep him distracted until food arrived. One thing I would recommend is a portable seat for babies, which makes it much easier to eat out abroad, where high chairs may not be provided.’ – www.howtorockatparenting.wordpress.com
12 – 36 Months
Ah toddlers. They are a nightmare at the best of times but they seem to save their very worst behaviour for times that are most densely populated with people to judge your parenting and make you sweat. Eating out with a toddler brings about a special set of challenges. They want to be on the move, they want to do everything for themselves, they have absolutely zero patience and even less regard for other people who want to eat their meal in peace. They are noisy, they are messy and if they are potty training then they are also a risk. But it CAN be done, I promise you. We eat out with our 3 year old all the time and although there are times I have wanted to cry and hide, we have also had some lovely meals out where other people have complimented her behaviour. The trick is to be PREPARED.
‘If they’re little, take some colouring or sticker books to keep them occupied while waiting for their food to come out. Family restaurants are usually quite good at providing activities for little ones but don’t take the risk and take some anyway. A bored child is a ratty child!’ – www.mayflowerblogs.com
‘Chose your restaurant wisely and opt for somewhere child friendly. We recently ate out three times during our holiday to Cornwall, and each time chose somewhere which billed itself as child friendly. This meant they got fish and chips in a bucket and spade, or toys to play with, for example!’ – www.allthingsspliced.co.uk
‘Plan the timing so they aren’t too tired or over stimulated. Order their mains with your starter so they can begin eating and take their time. Go somewhere that you’ll feel comfortable’ – www.sophobsessed.com
My tip here is to choose somewhere with an outside park or just some outside space where they can run around while you wait for your food to come.
‘I always let them have their iPads when eating out, and our two-year-olds think they should be eating as soon as they sit down at a table, their patience is none existent so I always order a breadboard or something that will be served pretty quickly while their waiting for their meals to arrive’ – www.kerryshawmumoffour.com
‘We find the ipad helps alot. another thing we now do is give our son his meal at home. then we just order him pudding when we’re out. so we enjoy our main meal, he has ice cream. and he is happy! im sick of spending a fiver on the kids meals and he doesnt eat anything!’ – www.meandbmaketea.com
‘I have a toddler who gets hangry waiting for dinner! So we call in advance to make sure they’re happy to cater to bringing a starter of some description for him ahead of the table’s dinner. Also keeps him occupied too! And other than that we let him take small toy cars!’ – www.onesmallhuman.co.uk
‘Take some playdoh and make the food we are waiting for with the playdoh – always keeps them occupied while we are waiting’ – www.anklebitersadventures.co.uk
‘We have a very fidgety 3 yr old who gets meltdowns when hungry. We always order his food as priority and tell the waiters. After eating he’s a lot calmer. We still ask for a high chair for him, no shame here, as he really needs to be contained. Otherwise he would run off and end up in the kitchen. We normally play small games or try to have a conversation about his favourite subjects with him to entertain him, but sometimes we do give him our phones, as that works every time.’ – www.captainbobcat.com
‘We try to only sit my almost two year old down once the food is on the table and had chance to cool a little. Before then we have a little wander, check out the toilets, look out the window, say hello to the waiters etc. Their attention span / desire to move around make restaurants a little tricky but not impossible!’ – www.thehappyweaner.com
‘Oh the dreaded eating out! We usually go when we know it will be quiet (around 4-5pm) we have found that BeefEater are amazing with kids! Our waiter ordered our toddler’s food before he asked us what we wanted so it would arrive asap, he also interacted with her may more then any other place we have been. He brought her colouring sheets and crayons, brought us the Wi-Fi password in case we needed it…. He was great! We always pack stuff for her to play with, toy figures, teddy, the lot….. turns out he did the job perfectly’ – www.ablogs-life.co.uk
‘We always make sure to bring our own cutlery for them from home. A lot of restaurants don’t offer toddler sized forks, and my two prefer a fork to a spoon to eat with! It means you’re always prepared!’ – www.emilyandindiana.com
‘We always forget, but try to remember to take their own cutlery so they don’t have to struggle with the adult sized versions. Take colouring, books and iPads as an emergency to keep them occupied or prevent any meltdowns! We also take a snack in case there is a long wait for food or we see if we can order the kids food first as soon as we arrive if they are hungry.’ – www.lyliarose.com
‘I made a conscious decision to take SmallHuman out for coffee/ lunch/ meals as often as we could (were able/ could afford)
He has grown up in social settings and understands if he sits well and colours in/ plays nicely then he gets yummy food .Don’t get me wrong we have had utter meltdowns more than once, but for the most part he gets it’ – www.sineadlatham.com
4 – 12 Years
‘We really like the CBeebies magazine for my 4 year old, there’s lots of stickers, colouring and stories she can do to keep her occupied and engaged’ – www.mommamack.com
‘With a teen, somewhere with free wifi is always a winner…being children of bloggers they natutally want to snapchat/insta/social media the hell out of their meal…before its touched’ – www.marriedtoageek.co.uk
‘I take an activity pack for my two, a book, some colours, story dice and a toy or two got the youngest.’ – www.pinkpearbear.com
‘We play the a – z game; naming different things using a to z. The funniest was fruit . I have an 11 and 5 year old.’ – www.thebalancecollective.co.uk/blog
‘Activity table place mats are great. Essentially just a large pad of paper with puzzles or colouring in. Providing you also remember crayons this is a good idea for planned restaurant outings especially for those which do not provide anything for the children.’ – www.sophieandlily.co.uk
‘We take some reading books or crossword books I always have a notepad and pen in my bag too just in case of waiting times. My daughter aged 9 doesn’t like noise so we take an MP3 player and earphones occasionally’ – www.wildlived.com
Do you eat out often with your kids? How do you manage it? Any top tips to share? A big thank you to all my fellow bloggers who sent me their top tips, go and check out their blogs!