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How young is too young?

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On my friendly, neighborhood Chowhound site, someone asked for a recommendation for a family get together -- an 8-month-old, the 'rents, and the grandfather. We all rallied to find something that would suit them, but I got to thinking -- How young is too young to take to a restaurant?

Should this family have baby-sat the kid, and enjoyed themselves as adults? Should they have taken the 8-month-old out, and lowered everyone's expectations?

I believe in teaching your kids to eat out by taking them out, avoiding chains and fast food, to family friendly restaurants, but not until they're old enough to understand the lessons you're trying to teach them. Is 8-months-old too young?

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  1. Depends on the kid depends on the restaurant.

    1. "an 8-month-old, the 'rents, and the grandfather"
      Sounds like a family affair to me....why wouldn't the baby be included?

      1. There are times when it's appropriate to bring a child of any age (even infants) and times when it's not appropriate to bring anyone under 21. In this particular situation, it sounds like they wanted to find a place where the entire family could spend time together and not have to clean up after. That's a real treat for parents of small children!!

        1. a well behaved or contented baby or small child in a restaurant at lunch time or before 6 or 7 pm ish is great, as long as the child is either eating or playing quietly at the table such as coloring. Good parents deal with a fractious child immediately, do not change diapers at the table (seen this!) and take the child out when it really starts grizzling or running about or having a tantrum.

          I don't like seeing young children at high end restaurants at night but that's my personal thing - but I have seen some terrific kids in expensive restaurants. It all depends on the parents and the kids and the moment.

          1. I'm not sure why you'd have to lower your expectations to take a baby to a restaurant. If it's a family get together, it seems like the main goal is to see the entire family, baby included. There are plenty of delicious (non-chain) restaurants that are baby friendly and will happily provide high chairs. Taking small children out can be a great way to expose them to new food, so even though they may not be learning table manners, they are still getting the opportunity to try new types of food they may not get to try at home.

            1. I don't see any problem with it, provided the infant has whatever food is appropriate for him/her. An 8 month old would probably be eating soft fruits and soft veggies, perhaps Cheerios, and if the parents made sure he was fed and had things in front of him so he didn't throw a tantrum, I don't see why he couldn't join the family.

              The parents, however, should be prompt in removing the child should he throw that tantrum. Get the child used to eating out and behaving, and it's a lesson learned for life. But if the parents allow the child to scream/run rampant (when they're up and running, that is), then no - they shouldn't go to the restaurant until they learn how to behave. Or the parents learn how their child should behave. :-)

              1. In my opinion the answer to this lies directly on the parents. Is their child well behaved? Do they know to get up and walk out of the establishment should the baby start crying? And most importantly, have they done this before. I know a couple that eats out almost seven days a week. they bring their baby all the time. The kid has cried once ever to my knowledge. She is not startled by noise (even dishes breaking) and loves flirting with everyone. If you make your child used to the situation they will aclimate themselves quickly.

                1. Please bring the babies!!! the more the merrier.

                  Let them learn to be outside of the protective home and be in society as soon as possible in as much circumstances as possible; it's also a good way to teach the parents on how to behave with kids and learn to deal with (sometimes) difficult situations.

                  And it's sometimes hard for parents to have to leave a party early because the baby is just too grumpy and cannot sleep like he's always do when at home and the parents have guests.

                  M

                  1. It's not about teaching the kids when the kid is only 8 months old, it's about including him as part of a family outing. And from my experience with my own children, 8 months is still in the "magic window" when you can go anywhere, even to very formal places, without worrying. A few months later, you need a babysitter or a family-friendly place because they enter that restless phase. And then, if you've trained them at home to stay seated at the table during a meal, you can resume bringing them to more challenging places at age 3 or 4 depending on the child.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Isoldamay

                      Yes, exactly. An infant is so much easier to bring to a restaurant than an older child. There's a very good chance the child will sleep through most of the meal, anyhow. When our little one was a baby I made sure she was fed before going into the restaurant and we'd hand her a spoon to play with - no banging, please - and all was good.
                      Get all that good eatin' in now while the child is still not mobile. It will get a lot more complicated soon enough.

                    2. I've chosen not to have kids but many of my friends have them. I've recently dined at a Thai place with a 2 year old (he loved the curry!), had a casual lunch with two kids over 7, and even a happy hour with a 5 month old. Honestly, the older kids were the hardest to deal with. They kept getting up from their seats and were very loud. The 2 year old did much better. And the parents of the 5 month old simply left when she started crying.

                      It's all about the parents and how they respond. I honestly think if the parents of the older kids had gotten in the habit of leaving public places when their kids were little and crying or otherwise disruptive, the kids would now be better behaved.

                      1. When our son was little, taking him to a restaurant was like giving him a sleeping pill. His younger sister was another matter, entirely.

                        1. I think you are asking the wrong question. It completely depends on the baby and the restaurant. Moreover, sometimes the younger the baby, the less likely they are to 'lower expectations', particularly if you take them during a time they'd be asleep. I took my daughter to a high end restaurant when she was a month old: it was a dinner with family, not in my town, and I couldn't find a sitter on short notice. She slept in her carrier under the table the entire time, and as we were leaving someone at a neighboring table commented that they weren't even aware we had an infant with us.

                          1. For an eight month old, it depends almost entirely on the restaurant.

                            Fine dining, expensive restaurants and romantic date places would be a bad idea.

                            But a more family friendly restaurant or chain wouldn't be a problem. If the restaurant provides high chairs, I"d say that it's definitely okay. If the kid starts screaming, they should be taken out until they calm down, however.

                            1. We always took our babies out to eat with us, but we rarely--at the time--went to anything other than either a "family place" or--more likely--inexpensive ethnic restaurants (where often the management doted on them, or their own children were wandering about the place...) We have wonderful pictures of my daughter in her high chair at her "favorite" Thai restaurant, or of her playing happily with refried beans (on her high chair tray, on her face, in her hair!) at the nearby family-run Mexican place.

                              My kids learned to eat exotic foods and behave themselves in public places from a very early age, and as a result did NOT morph into those noisy, restless, up-and-down kids that a poster up above was talking about, either.

                              (by the way, nursing babies can be taken just about anywhere, as long as mom and her boobs are nearby --and a light blanket to shield them from those horrified by breasts being used as Nature intended. I could take the infants to movies and nurse them in the dark whenever they awoke, and they never made a sound. )

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Beckyleach

                                Yup that's exactly where we are heading with our babe. She does well at restaurants and already eats quite exotically at the age of 14month compared to most.

                              2. My sister regularly takes my 2 nieces to Applebees. OK, not the greatest food destination but a family friendly place where they could learn how to behave in a restaurant. Now I can take my 6 year old niece just about anywhere and she is so well behaved. Had she never set foot in a restaurant until she was old enought, how would she have learned?

                                Parents have to show their kids how to behave outside the home and there are plenty of places to do so. My other niece in now 14 months and has been coming to restaurants with us since she could sit up. By the time she's 3 I have no doubt she'll be just fine in family places, much like her sister is now. But the parents need to know how to handle it... if the kid is screaming for more than a minute or two... take them outside, calm them down and bring them back in.

                                1. An eight-month-old isn't mobile yet, so they're not a big problem for the family get-together as long as somebody is assigned to baby-wrangling and will remove the kid if they get fractious. It's TODDLERS who are a menace to humanity in restaurants because they're too young to know what's expected of them, and too old to be blissfully unaware of the whole occasion.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Kajikit

                                    yes as I recall 8 month old is a golden age, where they are absolutely content to sit in their high chair and be cooed at by their grandparents. They are perfectly happy to do what they do best, smile and laugh and sit.

                                  2. I agree with all the posters on it depends on the kid, and the restaurant. Some kids are really fussy at certain times of the day. And I admit, being seated next to a kid smearing refried beans on its face and all over the high chair is nothing I'd want to pay money for as a dining experience. i might pay money NOT to be the person cleaning up the high chair.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Firegoat

                                      Ah, but there's this secret every parent knows from almost the moment the little bugger is born. It's called The Baby Tip, as in, "Does this mess mean we leave a Baby Tip?" A perfectly behaved child merits no Baby Tip. A real mess mean a Baby Tip anywhere from 50 - 100% above the normal tip, depending on how G-dawful the mess was.