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Food and Whine:
Dining Out With Your Children
Carol E. Watkins, M.D.


Click here for more articles, games and book reviews for children and adolescents interested in understanding mental health issues.

 Remember before you had kids? Your entire family unit…the two of you…could dine out anywhere.. Now it’s the five of you. Sometimes you get a sitter and go out as a couple, but it’s also nice to dine out as a family. It’s time to try something a step up from the usual pizza place. Taking the children to a restaurant can either be a fun adventure or a complete disaster. How do you make it work?

  • Ask your friends where their families eat out. Check out the restaurant in advance. Drop by before committing yourself to a family evening there.
  • Know your children. Some quiet, attentive kids can sit still and use good table manners in almost any restaurant. Some active, impulsive kids may not tolerate a restaurant with slow service or low noise levels. Some children cannot tolerate noisy places and prefer a calmer, quieter restaurant.
  • Prepare the children in advance. Explain the expectations, and motivate them to rise to the challenge.
  • Match the meal to your children’s tastes. Does your child like to be adventurous and try new flavors, or does he prefer to stick to familiar foods? Is desert a good motivator for polite behavior?
  • Decide whether to take all of your children at once. If parents have two children, they can play one on one. With three or more, it’s more like zone defense.
  • Children often do well at a buffet. They see the actual food, serve themselves quickly and make choices. Buffet food tends to be less exotic—a plus for children.
  • Some family-run ethnic restaurants are more tolerant of children. Their own children may have been hanging around the kitchen for years. (Do not assume that all ethnic restaurants are this way.)
  • If the restaurant does not own a high chair, they are telling you something.
  • Try not to take them out to eat when they are tired.
  • Tip well, especially if your children have been noisy or messy. If you get a good waiter, ask for his table again next time. Attentive staff can make a meal more enjoyable. If they remember you, your family may get superior service.
  • Pay the check before you actually intend to leave. If your children begin to get frazzled, you can make a hasty retreat.

Carol E. Watkins, M.D.


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Food and Whine: Dining Out With Children

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Northern County Psychiatric Associates
Contact Us:

Fax:            410-343-1272
Postal address: We have two locations in Baltimore County
      Monkton Office16829 York Road/PO Box 544/Monkton, MD 21111
      Lutherville Office: 2360 West Joppa Road Suite 223/ Lutherville, MD
Email: [email protected]
Please use telephone for appointments or medical questions.


Carol E. Watkins, M.D.
Glenn Brynes, Ph.D., M.D.

Copyright © 2006  Northern County Psychiatric Associates
Last modified: October 06, 2007

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