Guest Guru: Jill Besnoy of honestbaby.com
TIPS FOR EATING OUT WITH THE KIDS
By Jill Besnoy and Michael Sajkowicz
For parents of young children, the thought of going to a restaurant with the kids may be daunting. With a little preparation, you can turn a chaotic meal into something manageable. Here are some tips to help those dinner outings go a little more smoothly!
1. WET WIPES
Meal time can be messy enough at home but the same disaster can be more than just a little inconvenient in the restaurant. Wet wipes, which are always good to have on hand anyway, could end up being a lifesaver at the table. Keep a pack or two handy on your night out and you won’t be dragging your kids back and forth to the bathroom.
2. EARLY BIRD
Eating early isn’t just for senior citizens. Bringing your family to the restaurant before the dinner rush will allow for more attention from the staff and less stress that your children are being disruptive. Couples out for a quiet romantic dinner probably won’t be dining at 5:00 PM.
3. RESERVATIONS & DRESS CODES
It’s a good bet that if the restaurant requires them, it may not be the best place for a fun family night out for dinner. For meals with the kids it’s best to stick to casual restaurants.
4. MEAL SHIFT
Have the kids entrée come out with your appetizers and then have their desserts arrive with your entrée. You might need to skip dessert but limiting down time without the kids eating is worth it. (You can always take dessert to go.)
There is no more potent a combination for disaster than children and tall drink glasses. If there is a glass, it’s not about if the glass will be knocked over but when. Ask the wait staff to remove the glasses from the kids’ settings and transfer their drinks into kid friendly cups. Often restaurants will provide plastic cups with lids. But just in case you should have some sippy cups on hand. This way you won’t need to flinch every time they reach across the table.
6. BRINGING EXTRAS
We all know kids can be picky so there’s nothing wrong with bringing some extra snacks just in case. Yogurt or pita chips can tide a child over until you get home and prepare something they like. Also don’t assume that the restaurant will have apple juice or your child’s drink of choice so bring along a few juice boxes just in case.
7. NO GARNISH
Many kids like their food PLAIN. Make sure to tell your waiter that no additional fancy green garnish or topping should be sprinkled over the plate. That little extra dash of style from the chef just might make the meal inedible in the eyes of a fussy child.
8. FUN & GAMES
For the younger kids, a little entertainment can go a long way. Bring along fun activities like crayons and coloring books. If you’re empty handed, Telephone and 20 Questions can be great back-ups. For older kids, Gameboys and PSP’s are a no-brainer.
9. THE ESCAPE
Sometimes when a child is done eating they can’t sit any longer. No matter how entertaining you may be. If a child is being loud and you’ve run out of ideas, don’t be afraid to step out of the restaurant for a walk around the block. Often a little distraction is all they need and they can join the family again.
10. THE CHECK BEHIND
Before leaving the restaurant, give a thorough look around for anything left behind even if it means getting down under the table. That missing toy, sippy cup, pacifier, or blankie, may or may not be replaceable but the extra thirty seconds to double check is still worth it. Especially when your toddler won’t go to sleep without it!
Remember that eating out with the kids may be messy and unpredictable but it also just might be fun. Enjoy the meal!
Jill Besnoy worked for 10 years in film and television development before having children. She started www.honestbaby.com after realizing that there was no “right” way to raise your kids and wanting to create a community that celebrated imperfect parenting. www.honestbaby.com is a place where it’s okay to tell your real stories, the good and the bad, without being judged. Jill and her husband are proud to be imperfect parents to two energetic boys.