Dining Out with THe Kids

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 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


  • 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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