How to: eat out with young kids

March 07, 2011

Eating out meant something entirely different before we had kids.  Frankly, we had no true appreciation for the joy of simply sitting and enjoying a slow, relaxed meal!

Things are different now.  Apart from planned “date nights” where my husband and I revisit the “old days” of eating out, we do, on occasion, brave the restaurant world WITH kids–hey, we all have our own ways of living dangerously. :)  Quinten (now 20 months) is our current “wild card”.  However, a few months ago while dining at Red Robin, I discovered a remarkably simple (and free) way to hold his attention.  I have used this simple tactic several additional times since then and it has not ceased to deliver!  Here it is:

Many restaurants offer kid sized plastic cups with lids as well as crayons.  I simply request an additional empty cup and some extra crayons and hand them over to Q.  He is mesmerized by the process of feeding the crayons into the straw hole which can be repeated again and again (with willing older hands to assist.)  Simple yet effective!

After inquiring of our facebook fans what ideas they could share for keeping little ones busy at restaurants here are some of their responses:

“A straw and a cup with a tiny bit of water and ice kept my 17 month old busy the other day.”

“YouTube Mickey mouse on my iPhone!! Works great in the car as well!!”

“At the moment, a coloring book and crayons do the trick for my 18 month old.”

“Sorting sugar packets and creamer pots.”

“I ask them to bring out his food as soon as it’s ready. Most nicer restaurants (i.e. not fast food) provide crayons and a colouring page. I’m realistic and don’t expect to have a nice, quiet, 1.5-2 hour dinner with a toddler there. :) .”

“Eating! I know it sounds silly, but don’t feed them before you go. And request that the food come out ASAP.”

“My son (2 & a half) loves to look @ pictures of himself on my phone. I also try to bring a truck for him to play with. Of course we pretty much only go to Red Robin :) .”

“Carry a little backpack and stuff it with crayons and paper 1 old toy and 1 toy that is new – bc you take it away and only let them play with it in a restaurant. Honestly I’ve never had a problem with my nephews when I do that…..and I will do that with my daughter when she gets older.”

“Besides apps on my iphone, I take a piece of paper (usually the place mat provided) and a crayon or pen and draw a road system on it for the emergency hot wheels I keep in my diaper bag. That keeps my 2 yr old amused for at least 15 min!”

Hopefully at least one of these ideas will help you during your next romantic meal out!  And if we forgot any tips, please feel free to share yours!

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