My eldest has just turned seven.  For the past couple of years eating out with him has been an enjoyable experience.  He is pleasant company, he has good table manners and there are no dramas. I am excluding the time he had his first experience of popping candy (in his ice cream) and he started shouting for help in the restaurant because things were exploding in his mouth.  He created quite a bit of drama then!

The little one is two, and eating out with him is not a pleasant experience.  It’s an experience that requires a lot of managing, fraught nerves and “what the hell were we thinking”.  But in order to get him to the same stage as his brother we need to endure the next few years of following the steps below when eating out…

napkin and place setting with the text how to have an enjoyable meal out with kids


Please note “enjoyable” very much depends on your definition of the word “enjoyable”.


Step One:

Prepare for the fact that restaurant schedules and kids schedules are not normally aligned. Give the kids a snack before you leave to tide them over.


Step Two:

Pack like you are off for a mini-break.  You need a whole ton of crap to keep small people entertained.


Step Three:

Despite the snack to tide them over, the kids are starving as soon as they enter the restaurant.  There is no time to peruse the menu.  Close your eyes, stab your finger, choice made.


Step Four:

Order drinks and spend the next 30 minutes telling your child not to drink it all or they’ll be too full up for dinner.


Step Five:

Do everything known to man to entertain your children and keep them sat at the table whilst you wait for the food.  This includes colouring in, singing songs, playing eye spy and writing Christmas lists in July.


Step Six:

Give into their demands and give them snacks.  As soon as they finish your dinner will be served.


Step Seven:

Try to stop them howling as you swiftly remove their dinner as it is hotter than the sun, whilst your other half does some hasty fanning to try and cool things down.


Step Eight:

Wonder why a family friendly restaurant thinks giving toddlers china plates and metal cutlery is a good idea.  Apologise to the neighboring tables for the tenth time as your toddler decides that clinking sound he can make is the most fun since the time he ate the contents of your wallet.


Step Nine:

Wolf your own dinner down at break neck speed whilst issuing reminders about using knives and forks and not throwing food.  Pick your battles and realise that this is neither the time or the place for the “eat your peas” fight.


Step Ten:

Encourage, Beg and Bribe your children to eat more than two mouthfuls as they declare they are not hungry / it tastes yucky / they wanted the chicken nuggets.


Step Eleven:

Give up, admit defeat and order ice cream.


Step Twelve:

Try not to weep as you pay the bill and think of the shoes you could have purchased with that money instead.


Step Thirteen:

Return home vowing to never do that again.  Silently scream when the kids declare they are starving as soon as they get in the door.


If you can survive a meal out with kids with no tantrums or spillages consider it a huge success.  A stressful one, but a success none the less.
That was enjoyable, right?

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Claire Kirby

19 Comments on How to Have an Enjoyable Meal Out With Kids

  1. Haha so true! Especially 6 and 8! In fairness, my two toddlers don’t behave too badly in restaurants, but not too badly is very relative when it comes to toddlers! #FridayFrolics

  2. Why do they insist on making the food so hot! Just microwave it earlier and leave it on the pass until tepid again. Is that really too much to ask? #fridayfrolics

  3. Excellent tip about feeding them a snack first. Mine eats everything anyway but gets home and needs another meal too. He uses restaurant meals as a time for giving us a long list of Xmas presents he’d like – knows we can’t get away like we do at home. #expensive #FridayFrolics

  4. Haha … why do we do it? I feel like we’re in denial and try to emulate our former life. Sounds exactly like our meals except there’s always one child left unmanned we recently found ourselves doing a familyrendition of wind the bobbin up when we put for dinner WTF? Anything to get through it xxx #Fridayfrolics

  5. After a stressful meal with my kids (thankfully theses days its better than it was) I love to torment myself with shopping list noise in my head of what I could have bought at Sainos for the same money! Mostly wine! Next time I’m going to torment with shoes! #fridayfrolics

  6. Love this! Also, love that your child might have eaten the contents of your wallet (literally AND figuratively speaking I suppose). We quite often go out for curries with our children (7&4), so much easier than other types of restaurant as you get poppadoms (“CRISPS!”) the minute you walk in, which keeps them entertained until the korma and rice arrive! Everyone wins

  7. Ha ha ha ha! The bit about packing like you’re on a mini-break is sooooo true – and my husband always uses the line ‘hotter than the sun.’ You’re right, it isn’t a pleasant experience taking a toddler out for dinner. especially as my child likes to lob food around when dining x #FridayFrolics

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