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Tips for dining out with babies and toddlers, please

Apologies if this has been posted thousands of times before, but would you all share your tips for dining out with young children? Do you keep a portable high chair and/or booster seat in your car for places that welcome kids but that don't offer them so you're prepared? Or do you skip those places altogether if you're got your child along?

Do you bring along a sippy cup and snacks or foods and feed the little one while you eat? Do you feed your kid before you go? Do you bring a food mill and try to grind up a little of what you're eating? Cut it up into chunks and offer it as finger foods? What if you go somewhere and they don't have a changing table?

I need your help with all of the above, and all of the things I didn't think to ask!

Thanks in advance!


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  1. I did a lot of those things when my 3 were young. We didn't carry a booster seat, never really needed it. I always had some sort of food in my bag - cheerios, crackers, goldfish, whatever - and sippy or lidded cups. I also had crayons and small quiet toys (matchbox cars, tiny animals, etc). The kids could snack & play while we waited for the food. I usually just fed them off my plate as finger foods, bits of whatever they might want. Ordering separate food for them was just wasted. Sometimes I would feed them ahead of time (especially as babies), depending on when we anticipated actually eating.

    Two main points on eating out with babies & toddlers that I took seriously:
    1) As soon as any child got fussy, one adult would immediately get up & take child out for a walk around. A change of scene can work wonders. If the child didn't calm down enough to return, we left.

    2) I always cleaned the table & floor as much as possible. The servers got generous tips for basic service, since there was always a little extra running & cleaning necessary. Servers who were extra attentive got very generous tips.

    3 Replies
    1. re: elfcook

      Ah, see, you know all the answers to the questions I should have asked, thank you! These are perfect, keep them rolling folks!


      1. re: elfcook

        Absolutely on the cleaning up any mess and tipping generously!

        1. re: elfcook

          I ditto elfcook's 2 points, but not the initial part. I find that if you feed them snacks, they don't want to eat when everyone else is eating and then you've got trouble, as a baby that is DONE wants to LEAVE. YMMV. For us, it's best to distract the child until the food gets there, and then give them whatever they are eating. While on baby food, we would take turns - whomever was hungriest would eat first while the other parent fed the baby. Once baby and adult #1 were done, we would take baby out of there and let parent #2 finish in some semblance of peace, while we carried the infant around the restaurant, took it to get changed, or took it outside to play and wait for adult #2 to finish up. Speed is of the essence. As they are setting down the food, ask for the check. Pay as soon as it's presented so you can be all settled up and just bolt if things get ugly.

          Every child is different but mine had (and still has) trouble sitting in the high chair for long periods of time waiting. Toys and other in-chair distractions just did not cut it for more than a couple of minutes. Typically, our MO is as soon as we get there, I decide what everyone is getting and just order for all 3 of us, then mr. RNR takes the little one outside to play. Diners with train tables are a godsend. Or we might just run up and down the handicapped ramp near the takeout area or whatever. Anything so that the kid is not sitting there getting frustrated with waiting. When food arrives, I cut up the little one's food and get it all ready, then call DH and have him bring the kid back. I feed the kid or now, he feeds himself, and we cram down food really fast. Whomever is done first then takes the kid outside or elsewhere while the other settles up the check, gets any necessary takeout boxes, and does remedial cleaning.

          When no changing station is available, I have changed him on the sink counter. Sorry people, but if you don't provide, I will make do. If there is not enough room on the sink, I change him in the car in the back seat - have done this many times. When no high chair is available, hold the child on your lap. You eat with one hand or not eat at all this way, so it's helpful to have someone to hand the child off to when they are done eating so then you can eat.

        2. Lulu has been dining out with us since she was a week or so old. It gets easier as time goes on, and they learn quickly what is acceptable and what isn't (throwing those cheerios on the floor, screaming). You'll do great.

          Yes - do bring some sort of little finger food snack like cheerios. There was about a 1 year period when I didn't ever go without the ziplock full of those (and for special occasions the much loved "colorful cheerios" - fruit loops, usually picked up in airports or at hotel breakfasts). I also remember she liked the yogurt covered ones. That, and some sort of board book - for both gnawing and looking purposes. Oh, and apple slices are easy to carry along, and take a while to chew on. Once he gets to the crayon stage, you'll replace the cheerios with these.

          I still bring along Lulu's sippy most of the time we go out. I just feel more comfortable without the chance of broken glass. There was only one place we went to that didn't have high chairs or something like it, and so we just wheeled her stroller up to the table. Given that she was well behaved throughout the meal, and that we ate and drank well, they didn't have a problem, but I normally took it to be a sign that children were not wanted when high chairs weren't available, and stayed away when she was with us.

          Always give bites (if he is at that stage) so that he can get new tastes. If there is any kind of appetizer thing on the menu that you think might appeal, go for it as his dinner. Gnawing on whatever bread you're given seems to be fun for them too. Your shown enthusiasm for your own food, and for his willingness to try new things, will do wonders.

          Our main rule was that if she started acting up in any way that was disruptive, one of us took her outside (or away from the action) immediately. While away from the action, make sure that the child doesn't get extra attention from whichever parent is taking him; otherwise he'll see it as a fun thing, instead of a consequence of his actions. Other diners appreciate it, and by the time Lulu was 2-3 months old, she knew that she wouldn't get away with it. I realize you didn't ask for parenting advice, but I thought I'd throw this your way just in case.

          hope at least some of this helps!

          1 Reply
          1. re: LulusMom

            Food or dining-related parenting advice always welcome!


          2. Agree with the advice already posted here. A few additional thoughts (DS is now 15 months old and has been in restaurants since he was just a few weeks old):

            1. Most restaurants have low-fat milk, not whole, and will happily provide kids' cups with straws (or at least a straw for a regular glass). So if you want your child to drink something else, bring it.
            2. We really liked the disposable placemats with adhesive strips along the edges. We were able to give DS his own food without risking a broken plate, and it rolls up for easy clean-up. However, the placemats will not stick to tablecloths...
            3. I took snack food to start DS on, like Cheerios or Kix, blueberries or cut-up grapes, etc. Eating that usually distracted him enough until our meals came. We had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory a few months ago and our server brought DS his own plate of cut-up fruit and bread while we were waiting for our meals.
            4. Back in his puree-eating days, we'd just take stuff with us - no need to try to prep it at the table. Now, depending on where we go, we either order more food for ourselves and share with him (e.g., full-size salad and gave him chicken, beans, cheese, etc. out of it) or order a dish for him. I prefer to share because it's more cost-effective and he gets to try more stuff. SO many places just have chicken nuggets and Kraft mac n cheese on their kids menu - DS has gotten to taste chicken satay and pastitsio!
            5. I've only taken DS to two places that did not have changing tables in the restroom. One was in an older (historic) building, but there was enough space to spread the changing pad on the floor - not ideal, but the best of the bad options. The other was a Chipotle in a newer shopping center. I threw a mini-tantrum to the manager, and then took DS back out to the car to change him on the backseat.
            6. We've never not been able to get a highchair. However, our local diner has these weird clip-on chairs which DS has figured out how to get out of... so we will take our strap-on-the-chair booster seat the next time we go!
            7. We increase the servers' tips to account for the extra clean-up and service required.
            8. We go out for lunch and brunch a lot more than dinner. It works better re. DS's naptimes, and it's also a good way for us to teach DS good restaurant behavior when other guests and staff are a bit more tolerant.
            Have fun!

            1. I would take cheerios (or similar dry, non messy food that takes little fingers a very long time is pick up one by one) to keep our son occupied but aside from that, he ate whatever I was having and drank water or milk. I did take a small cup for him to use.

              No changing table? It is possible to change a baby on your lap. It takes practice. My husband is the one that taught me. Have the diapers, wipes ready and a drop cloth to put over your lap. You can use those blue pad/puppy piddle pads that are slim and easy to stash in your bag or other flannel covered things sold in the baby section of any big box store.

              We were blessed with a child who was very happy to sit and watch the world around him. As he got older, we did switch to more lunches versus dinners.

              When he was at the stage where he wanted to feed himself (this is when things get messy) I took a clear plastic shower curtain and cut it down to create a drop zone. (I always asked if it was ok to use it) When he was done eating, I would fold it up, scraps and all, and deal with it at home.

              We only encountered one restaurant in the states that didn't have a high chair. I held him on my lap for that meal. When travelling outside of the contig. 48 states, we often found restaurants didn't have high chairs. Oddly enough, this was in areas where children are always with their parents. My guess is they tend to hold or wear their kids more.

              Maybe we were just lucky but we had fantastic experiences taking our son out for meals when he was little. We are regulars at local, independenty owned places and the managers and owners were always very welcoming. My husband and I joke the only real "problem" we had was when the waitress at our local Japenese restaurant wanted to carry our son around and take him into the kitchen when he was just a few months old. I know he was under 6mo old. I let her hold and carry him but put my foot down at kitchen visits.

              Another tip? Raise your little chowhound to eat off the main menu. I don't even allow a server to put a traditional kid's menu on the table.

              4 Replies
              1. re: cleobeach

                Wholeheartedly agree bout the kids menu! Keep them away.

                My diaper bag had a little plastic sheet type thing in it so that if I found myself at a place with no changing station I could just lay that down somewhere. Came in handy on a number of occasions.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Wholeheartedly agree bout the kids menu! Keep them away.


                  I have encountered a few exceptions but sadly, even some of the nicer places try to force cheap, fried food on little ones.

                  My favorite places are the ones that say right out "we don't offer a child's menu but are happy to scale down any dish on the menu"

                  1. re: cleobeach

                    I completely love your point on the "no children's menu" thing, unless it is truly a scaling down of adult menu items.


                    1. re: cleobeach

                      Also, depending on what your son ends up loving to eat, many places will happily throw together certain easy things. For a while, Lulu's favorite food was pasta with garlic and olive oil. Any restaurant with pasta can make that, and pretty much every place we asked happily did so.

                2. I will also add that our child is only 2, but now that he eats real people food instead of baby food, we do not order off the kids menu unless we know he's not going to eat much, like he can have mac & cheese and side of broccoli. But no chic fingers, fries, etc.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    I want to add that I don't mean to sound preachy/snotty about the kid's menu. If someone's child eats healthy at home and getting those chicky fingers and fries is a treat when going out -have at it and enjoy it.

                    The typical kid offering just doesn't work for our son because he doesn't like that type of food yet is drawn into the novelty. If I do let him order chicken fingers, he eats one or two bites and then wants real food.

                    1. re: cleobeach

                      I don't think you sound preachy/snotty, but that's perhaps because I am of the same mind.

                      From my perspective, I'd like to think it's about exposing my child to different flavors and cuisines as early as possible because those are the foods I enjoy eating and I don't want to wait until he is off to college to eat those foods out again. My hope would be that s/he will come to develop an appreciation for these foods early in life and eventually feel comfortable enough or adventurous enough to prefer them over mac and cheese if it's not a mac and cheese restaurant, so to speak. Otherwise, if all s/he eats out is mac and cheese, that's all s/he might ever eat out.

                      Then again, I can completely understand why a parent might let a child order off the "kids menu" if that strategy of teaching your child to appreciate variety doesn't work for whatever reason. If letting him/her order mac and cheese is a way of keeping the peace while you enjoy a rare meal out, then you have to do what you have to do.

                      Or, as you say, a parent might approach it as, eating out should be a treat for everyone, why not let the child order what s/he most wants? I can see it many ways. I think this is one of those situations where you just have to decide what's best for your family, perhaps even on a child by child basis as they all have little minds of their own.

                      But, someday, I'd love to see my 8 year old order, say, pho off the menu at a Vietnamese restaurant and look forward to that with as much delight and anticipation as he would ordering a burger off the menu at the local pub. *fingers crossed*

                      My Chowhoundly wish as a parent...


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        We had our "moment" this summer during lunch in Stonington, CT.

                        I can't remember the name of the restaurant but it was on the water and had a lunch special of steamers, lobster bisque and a small lobster. When our son heard me order, he said he wanted the same. The waitress was like "no, seriously, what does he want?"

                        He ate every bit of that lunch, even cleaning his own lobster out of the shell and helped me finish mine. He was 5yo at the time.

                        I have had more than one waitperson agrue with me about what my child "won't eat."

                        1. re: cleobeach

                          Now that is pretty darn cool. Gives me shivers!


                          1. re: cleobeach

                            Those sorts of waitpeople (and I used to wait tables myself) drive me *crazy*. Once Lulu ordered a salad to start, and the waitress looked and her and said "Really?? Never had a kid ask for that before." So, of course, Lulu said "never mind, I don't want it." And then there are the ones who quickly say "oh, you won't want that, it is too spicy." Suddenly she won't want it, whereas if nothing is said, she'll eat the spiciest stuff there is. Beware such servers!

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              Kind of presumptuous of a server to tell a person of any age what they want to eat... I'm sure they mean well, but oh my how frustrating!


                              1. re: LulusMom

                                As someone who was a server, I say cut your losses and make your warnings known. Neither my co-workers nor I ever "told" anyone what their child would or would not eat. Most servers can tell the difference between a food-savvy child and one that's being indulged because he/she might throw a tantrum in retaliation. I was thanked far more often than not when I mentioned bones, shells, spices, portion-size, etc. to the over-indulging parents who were about to let their 6 year old order half a chicken swimming in wine and garlic or a lobster in the shell with a spicy chili sauce.

                                If some of you people with children knew how much food gets thrown out and goes unpaid for in restaurants because Isabela and Joshua didn't know anything about a dish but were allowed to order it anyway, you'd change your tune.You certainly don't run your homes that way.

                                1. re: staughton

                                  I waited tables too. For many, many years.

                              2. re: cleobeach

                                These kinds of servers definitely get the stink eye from me and it reflects on their tip. Our dd has gotten the same thing from servers, less now, at 9, than when she was younger. We had the exact same thing happen to us, but it was mussels, not lobster (although dd loves lobster, too.) Same when she orders salads. Sometimes as her entree. Surly a child can't resist the fried, processed chicken nuggets and fries.

                                We once had a waiter that was pretty adamant that dd not order a bottle of sparkling mineral water and get Sprite instead (we don't drink soda pop, so she's never had it.) Finally he blurted out, "but it's $5 a bottle!! That's what the food on the kid's menu costs and a drink is included in the price." I just replied, "Well, she won't be ordering off of the kids menu, anyway, so it's O.K." I don't think adventurous child diners are that rare, just this waiter was kind of clueless. Many are.

                                1. re: velochic

                                  There is definately a segment of the population that thinks children should be fed as cheapy as possible, that they aren't deserving of "good" food or that "good" food is wasted on the young.

                                  So sad when you think about it. But then again, if everyone was raised to a wide variety of good foods, we wouldn't have the fantastically entertaining "My ILs are coming for Thanksgiving dinner and will only eat StoveTop stuffing" posts!

                                  1. re: cleobeach

                                    In a way, waitstaff like these who can't handle out-of-the-ordinary requests from children are no more than control freaks who want the children to assume their expectations of them. Great that parents stick up for the kids and allow them to be different in their preferences. Since she was able to eat solid food, my daughter has always loved crunching raw vegetables. At 22, she still does!

                        2. Thoughts: 1. Go early, before your child is hungry. Wait = screaming. Screaming = unhappy everyone, especially mom and dad. Early = less or no wait and fewer customers. We have usually left the establishment before it starts to fill up. 2. Bring food. Yes, it's a nice thought to have your kids wait for the food you order, but be realistic. If you want to have them stay in one place, snacks are the best way to do it. They aren't going to eat copious amounts of food, regardless. 3. I do not grind food. Don't offer it to them if you can't cut off a small piece. 4. I would not go to a place that does not have high chairs. That's a good sign it's not an appropriate destination for toddlers. 5. You will go through phases where you can't go out with your kids because the hassle is not worth the payoff. I love the stories of "oh my child has always been so well behaved in restaurants because that is what I expect." But, for most of us, toddlers just don't have the patience to sit through a whole meal (at home or in a resto), so be realistic. Sadly, we are currently in a stage of unpleasant meals out when we try them, so we just get carry out or a babysitter. Otherwise, one of us ends up missing the meal because he/she is outside the restaurant running around with the toddler so as not to disturb the other patrons. It will change again in the future, but we're on hiatus for now. Good luck. (Oh, and for changing purposes, if you have an SUV/station wagon, the back of the car is the best (and probably cleanest) place to change the diaper. I keep disposable changing pads in the car for that reason.)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: LizR

                            I pretty much agree with all of this. My kids are now 8 and 10 and we've gone out since birth. It is so nice now, but as newer parents, you need to be willing to make some sacrifices. We always went early - often 5:30. The little snacks, yes, but also age appropriate quiet activities really help. I had a pack of crayons in my purse until 2 yrs ago and my youngest still loves when the restaurants hand them out so she can draw contentedly or play a game of tic-tac-toe with her brother. Just last week I had her flip the paper placemat over and draw me a picture of her favorite activity that day at school - great conversation starter. Okay, I digress. . . . When my kids were in the pureed food stage, I would take it with me in a microwavable container and the staff was more often than not very willing to warm things up. We did have a portable booster, but it was really for visiting friends and family. It came in handy once at a diner that was so full it was out of high chairs. Liz is correct though - if they don't have them, that means they don't want your youngster in their restaurant. As for the bad stage . . . sadly yes. Although we didn't avoid restaurants completely, I look back with great sadness on our "Friendly's" phase when we were just too exhausted/busy to get something on the table and take-out didn't sound good. I took comfort in the fact that even during this phase, my kids learned to sit at a table in a restaurant without getting up and moving around, gave an order to a server and waited for their food. It was my silver lining in spite of food I always told myself I wouldn't endure as a parent. ;) The reality is that these places have seen it all, are quick and well equipped to handle kid disasters.

                            1. re: centralpadiner

                              Yeah, I had a much easier time of it with my first child--he would at least sit through most of the meal. Not so much my second. Even at home, we are racing the clock to eat before she decides she MUST. GET. UP. NOW. And, I don't think it's my poor parenting--she's just two years old and that's the way it is for some kids. Another thought for the OP--I used to bring little bits of food from home I knew my child would eat. This anticipates and avoids the melt down when your tired toddler decides he/she doesn't want whatever it is that was ordered. Yes, you can try to hold your ground and say "no, you must eat what is presented to you" (which I do at home), but again, meltdown at restaurant = misery for mom and dad, as well as anyone within earshot.

                            2. Go early. Go late. Bring patience. Expect some misbehavior. Tip generously. Get take out.

                              Around 5-6 years old it gets easier and fun.

                              1. Oh, I will also add that my child is pretty unusual in that most of the time, he eats a LOT. I mean, he can put down a full size adult meal when he puts his mind to it, so we have found if we let him snack before the meal, he will eat snack, but very little meal. yes, it keeps him occupied while waiting for the food, but then you have a child that, when the food arrives, is really no longer hungry and is done eating and ready to leave. Everyone's kid is different but when my kid is hungry, he wants to eat. If you offered him 4 cheerios and no more, he'd be pretty pissed about waiting. He just polished off a thick slice of fried bologna, side of mac and cheese, side of broccoli, at least a couple of ounces of my fried chicken, 2 pats of butter (don't ask) and most of the bread from his grilled cheese (that originally had the bologna in it too). If I had started out with some goldfish, he probably wouldn't have eaten most of that. I'd rather he fill up on food, and if I have to stall for awhile before the food comes by distraction or what have you, that works. We have gotten to the point now where he is a little better at waiting and he knows what going to a restaurant entails, that it's a special treat and he has to try really hard to be on his best behavior, and even at 2.5 years old, he's doing a pretty good job of it, and he eats all his food, too. I only bring snacks along for those occasions where we are somewhere and there isn't something to eat and he is hungry, like if we go out to a farm or something.

                                  1. re: viperlush

                                    I think this is very important advice that should not be ignored because it was said so succinctly. Kids can feel fear and tension, and it makes them fearful and tense. I traveled a lot with my kids even when they were very little (India with two in diapers) and folks are always telling me they don't know how anyone could do it...their kids start screaming before the plane even takes off. Well, they are so uptight about the trip it can't help but affect the kids. Relax, take a few little snacks, let the kid order as soon as he can (that was a lesson I wish I had learned earlier) and don't sweat the small stuff. If your child sees you having fun she will have fun too.

                                    1. re: janetofreno

                                      If your child sees you having fun she will have fun too.

                                      I agree.

                                      My aunt, a woman born to be a mother, says kids are like dogs and horses, they can smell fear. Within my own circle of family and friends, the uptight moms seem more likely to have fussy kids.

                                  2. Make all foods okay for your kids, as long as they're not dangerous choking hazards. My kids are older now but all along, sometimes they'd want chicken nuggets and french fries, sometimes they'd want sushi. You know, sometimes I want chicken nuggets and french fries so why make that forbidden to them? And, whatever you choose to do, don't play the one up your friends game ("Well, my little Johnny has NEVER had a french fry...", "Oh yeah, my little Ashley doesn't know what french fries even are!", "Well, my Susie loves her organic edamame!"). Really, all the bragging gets old. Whether or not you can one up it, move on. It'll make you MUCH happier. Oh, sorry this isn't really eating out advice but it will happen if you eat out w/ others. I just had some co-workers over who had little ones and it was endless one upsmanship. I thought of banging my head against the wall when I went to the kitchen.

                                    When they're younger, they can eat off your plate. I had a friend who brought a small pair of sharp scissors in a container to chop up the food. It was brilliant, quick and easy and much faster than my trying to cut little tiny pieces w/ a fork and knife. Bring lots of wipes. Yes, bring sippy cups and even utensils they know how to use. Order at least one thing familiar to them.

                                    I didn't feed them before the meal. I'd bring toys, paper/pens, crayons, etc. for before. And, after you've been seated and are waiting for food is a good time to take them out and run off a little energy before food gets there and then they'll be hungry. If you feed them before the food gets there and they get full then they'll have nothing to do while you're trying to eat and they'll have gotten full off of purse finger foods and not dinner foods. Ask for a good seat near an area you can walk with your child and be ready to leave if he/she gets antsy. They can pack your food to go pretty quickly and probably appreciate it rather than deal w/a screaming baby.

                                    As changing diapers go, I went to the car. Or, more likely I'd send my husband out to the car. Eat early, eat quickly and it won't damage your child if they don't eat out at nice places when they hit the age that things are difficult (for us it was 18 months to 2, 2 1/2ish but all kids are different). You'll enjoy it more when you're not on edge the whole time. And, remember, time goes quickly so enjoy yourself, no matter how crazy it gets.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: chowser

                                      As always, you guys have amazing ideas. I'm sorry I'm not responding to everyone's ideas, but I don't want to keep bumping the thread to say thank you, thank you, thank you.

                                      I have noticed that dining isn't very leisurely anymore, we really are in a hurry all of the time. But, this is just a stage.

                                      I don't have any bragging rights, ha! Mine hates his organic peas and the hormone-free, cruelty0free, free range chicken we roasted then lovingly ground to a paste... We've got a ways to go! But, you're right, no one likes a bore, so thank you for the reminder.


                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        Give him time - they say it takes 10 times tasting something different before a kid learns to appreciate it. Soon you'll be bragging and boring all over (and we'll all be very excited and happy for you!).

                                        A serious tip that has been mentioned here is to find a really great babysitter and try to have a date night at least once every other week. Important for you and your husband (and thus for baby).

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          LOL, as Bill Cosby put it, you sterilize everything, give them the best food and then you take them out of the house and find them eating dirt. My daughter preferred chomping on the box to the actual Oatios (organic Cheerios) which mortified me when I noticed the big bite taken out of the box in the store.

                                          Just keep in mind they change daily if not hourly. One minute they love broccoli, the next, they hate it and back and forth. You plant the seed and nurture. Knowing you, I have no doubt little DQ will turn out great. And I look forward to hearing all about it. Congrats, btw. This is the first I've heard the news. Quite a few new CH babies recently.

                                        2. re: chowser

                                          "I had a friend who brought a small pair of sharp scissors in a container to chop up the food."

                                          My kids are now 7 and 5 but when they were a little younger and I would take them to parties and events where pizza was served, I would carry kitchen shears in my bag. At first, everyone looked at me like I had 2 heads...then they all crowded around asking to borrow them. Much faster than a dull butter knife.

                                          "Eat early, eat quickly". Learn it, live it. When my 7 year old was a toddler, we would go out to eat with my in-laws and my MIL is the world's slowest eater. And to make matters worse, she would order an appetizer, entree and dessert. Finally, I had to tell her that when we go out with my daughter in tow, it is a one course meal...we sit, we eat, we leave.

                                          It is not leisurely, but that time will come again.

                                          1. re: valerie

                                            The scissors worked so well! I was amazed when she took them to pork chops and had it cut in seconds. It's hard to cut tiny pieces w/ those dull knives and you end up shredding the food. My friend's has a case for easy storage.

                                            1. re: chowser

                                              Once saw a family in Hong Kong eating w/ a toddler. Mom took something out of her purse that looked sort of like a pair of kid's plastic scissors, put some noodles in a small bowl and picked up the scissor thing, which turned out to have several curled teeth on each side, interlocking. She cut up the noodles zippity zip. I've looked for those ever since, probably ten years, with no luck. They'd make a great baby present.

                                              1. re: lemons

                                                I think this family got their sets from China, too. They would be a great present.

                                        3. If the place doesn't have high chairs/boosters, they usually don't welcome children, so go to those places when you have a babysitter. There are some exceptions, so ask first. Even if you have a well-behaved child who eats sushi, you might get a snotty attitude from some places, and it just wasn't worth it to me when my kiddos were little.

                                          Ask the server NOT to bring the kid's food out first. They all want to do this, but you do not want your child done before your food arrives. How will you enjoy your meal then?

                                          Do expect him/her to remain seated. Start practicing at home. Kitchen table manners should be the same as restaurant table manners.

                                          Bring non-noisy toys to distract a bored child. When the food arrives, include him/her in the conversation. This may sound weird if you have an 8 month old, but it's good training in manners and serves the very important purpose of distracting him so you can eat.

                                          If you drink alcohol, now's the time to order a glass of wine or beer. You'll be more relaxed.

                                          As others have said, tip and clean generously. Bring extra wipes and a plastic bag to bring the soiled ones home in so that the bus person doesn't have to throw them out.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: Isolda

                                            So, I'm hearing loud and clear: if they don't offer high chairs, then it's not really kid-friendly. Good to know! I can easily call ahead and ask for places I thought were kind of on the fence...


                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              Not necessarily true. I have been in some small, food "shack" type places that just don't have those, but they aren't at all averse to families. Same thing for some ethnic joints. Just hold the kid on your lap.

                                              Yes, the days of a hot and leisurely meal are gone, but it's also always changing. As quick as we are to get through a meal, I've found now that my toddler is lingering and lingering, eating more and taking longer to eat it, so we are sitting around on our hands waiting for hiim to be done because we though he would plow through at lightning speed like we did. It's hard to predict. This is why it's best if there is a team of 2 of you.

                                              I recently took my 2 year old on a pretty long road trip (destination 12 hours away,t hough we did break it up with an overnight stay). What worked best here was a) having a baby used to riding in a carrier, and a kid old enough to climb on my back into the carrier and b) bringing most of our food with us in a cooler. It was hard to schlep the kid and my purse and a cooler into and out of rest stops, but gave us a much more enjoyable and healthy dining experience than if we had tried to eat from rest stop food, which is largely horrible. It was a challenge to deal with him completely alone for EVERY meal, but we managed and actually had a lot of fun. It can be done!

                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                All excellent points, thank you! And, indeed, thank goodness there are two of us!


                                            2. re: Isolda

                                              2nd the idea of NOT letting the server bring little DQ`s food out ahead of yours. If junior`s food comes out first, he`s finished first --which means by the time your food arrives he`s gone from fed, to fussy and trying to Houdini out of the chair.

                                              As for non-high chair places... it depends, some places just don`t get many kids so they don`t have the gear - just call ahead, and go early.

                                              When my kids were younger we`d look to get seated in a corner table or good size booth-that way there was built in space for them to stretch their legs a little without disturbing the dining room.

                                              I always kept a booster seat(hard plastic, foldable - First Years brand I think it was) in the trunk so if we were at a friend`s for dinner(who didn`t have young kids) or at a restaurant that had high chairs but they were broken or missing the seat belt we were prepared.

                                              1. re: maplesugar

                                                There are some really nice foldable booster seats these days. In the past, we had to make do w/ whatever we could find (and walk uphill both ways as we did it, in the snow). My SILs had ones that attached to the table. Booths are great-just make sure no one is using the other side if you have a toddler. It's a pain sitting behind a toddler sharing the booth while he/she is hopping up and down, turning around to swat your head, etc.

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  Hopping up and down and swatting heads is not on the list of acceptable behavior!!! Our son never did that. Kids are fast learners; teach them what is expected of them! It's only respectful to them.

                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                    Exactly! It always makes me wonder what the parents are thinking when their children do it. Or, maybe they're not.

                                                    Oh, I wasn't directing that thought to you, maplesugar--sorry if it seems like it. It was just a general thought of things I've seen.

                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                      No worries chowser, I know it was meant as a general comment. I feel the same way--No standing up/jumping/whapping neighbours ever. My kids aren't angels but they know we'd leave faster than they could say sorry if they ever tried something like that.

                                                      Typically a booth meant a tired toddler could nap (shoes off!) with their head in my lap, sit and play with quiet toys in the space between us, or that we had space for the baby's bucket seat without having to worry about it blocking an aisle.

                                                      1. re: maplesugar

                                                        My children are well past the toddler stage and I still love booths, just for a place to put my purse alone.

                                            3. Great thread, TDQ. Very useful for me, too, as Eva is just starting an independence phase and the carrier isn't going to cut it for her much longer. We definitely have a future Chowhound on our hands, though; she's absolutely obsessed with food!

                                              Thanks for all the helpful advice everyone.

                                              1. Wendy's etc; by ~5 yo, children should have proper training for adult feeding venues.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. We have a 21 month old that we have been taking out his whole life. We got the portable high chair that clips onto the table and leave it in the car. Still try and avoid places that do not have high chairs, but have found that some smaller restaurants only have 1 chair or have ones where the straps are broken/missing and so we will use our own.

                                                  We bought a rubber placemat with suction cups that has a little well that hangs over the edge and catches some of the dropped food. It has been a great purchase and we always have people commenting that they wish they had that when their own kids were little. Overall, a great item!

                                                  Very few places have actually had a changing table so we try to change him in the car before we go in, and try not to eat meals that take so long that we cant wait until we are back in the car. If there is no flat surface in the bathroom, hope that we parked close by!

                                                  We bring a full meal with us - snacks, applesauce, string cheese and milk. We try and order some veggies for him so that the higher check total compensates a little for the extra work but there are times when he refuses to eat anything but what he knows or when the food just takes too long for him to wait and we have to feed him.

                                                  Definitely bring a quiet toy and hope that the nearby diners have kids of their own so they dont get too annoyed when it gets thrown. Make sure to take the child out of the dining room if they begin to get loud.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: JRSD

                                                    I forgot about the placemat. We have one of those too. The best thing to do is buy TWO of them, so you can have one at home and one that lives in the diaper bag (cleaning in between uses, of course, because they get very messy - put it in a large ziplock in the diaper bag).

                                                    1. re: JRSD

                                                      My SIL used rubber bibs, along the lines of your placemat, that had a large "cup" or "well" at the bottom. Her favorite thing was the clean up — she just put the bib in the dishwasher.

                                                      1. re: odkaty

                                                        I've seen that bib, thought to myself "what a clever idea!" when I was a toddler my bib had a 'catch' but it was terry cloth so it flopped closed and wasn't nearly as efficient as the firmer rubber (and harder to clean).

                                                        1. re: odkaty

                                                          In England, those rubber bibs are called Pelicans and used to be available at every Boots.

                                                      2. Along the lines of great kid's menus, we will be at the Hotel Hershey, Hershey, PA this weekend. Check out the kid's menu for the Circular Room -


                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: cleobeach

                                                          Lovely menu! I'll bet that will be fun!


                                                        2. Just wanted to say, +1000 for ALL the good parents on this thread. We don't have kids, and I have a pretty high tolerance for kiddo hijinks (half = sympathy to parents, half = "Hehheh, glad I don't have to take that lil demon home"), and I know it's a lot of work to raise up good citizens. Thanks to all for not making excuses. :)

                                                          1. My most important bit of advice is to INCLUDE THE CHILD SOCIALLY. The children I see acting up in restaurants are most times being ignored by their parents. I find this to be rude. Manners and kindness know no age. A child of any age who is included in the conversation/eye contact is far less likely to become bored and cause trouble.

                                                            I emphatically agree that children's menus suck. Bits of exciting, healthy foods from parents' plates are great things in so many ways!

                                                            Yes, I do speak from experience. My son is now 23 years old and he cooks and eats a vast array of foods. He has never caused a scene in a restaurant (at least not on my watch!) We have been taking him out regularly since he was one week old. The most exciting thing he has ever done in a restaurant is to insist upon eating dill pickles dipped in BBQ sauce all evening once when he was two-ish. Worse things have happened!

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                              I like the comment "INCLUDE THE CHILD SOCIALLY." I am childless but for some reason I'm really popular with my friends kids, cause I just don't have a clue how else to deal with the little buggers. at the slightly post-toddler stage I'll re-arrange (or steal - sight gags always work) their silverware as a joke and they know that's not right (but silly) and it keeps them engaged while the adults gossip. or if on a road trip the kiddo wants what I'm having I'll share and though I spoon it out I hand the loaded flatware over to get them practiced in the hand coordination. spaces out the meal and is amusing while letting them have a sense of control I imagine.

                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                Include the child socially - excellent advice!

                                                              2. So much good advice here, suprisingly I have something to add (unless I missed it above): patios! My little ones behave better outside. There are dogs, birds, butterlies, cars on the street, and generally changing scenery to keep them amused. Patios (and the people eating there) tend to be louder, too, so it's not so obvious when the kids forget to use their restaurant voices.
                                                                Also, as others have said, we went through a period with both kids--around 1yr to 18 months--where dining out just wasn't worth the trouble, because they could not sit at a table and refrain from disrupting others.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: rusty_s

                                                                  Our patios are crammed with smokers, so not a good place for small children. But a great idea if you live somewhere where this isn't the case, for sure!

                                                                2. Okay, follow up question if I might, but I'm kind of grossed out by the sticky, dirty condition of restaurant high chairs, especially knowing they they are often turned upside down to accommodate car seats and the rails that my baby is putting his hands on were previously resting on the floor...

                                                                  Would it be nuts to wipe it down before putting baby in?


                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    When I worked in a finer dining restaurant I would wipe down the highchair before the guests arrived, if a chair had been requested. When my children (now 22 and 25) were young, I would bring disposable wipes, or ask for a bar towel and hot water, to clean the chairs before child was installed.

                                                                    1. re: KarenDW

                                                                      Thanks for that. I think I'm going to wipe my highchairs out from here on out... And, I'm relieved to hear that finer dining restaurants do wipe the chairs down...


                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        Not only would I not think you are nuts for doing it, I might think you are nuts for NOT doing it. ;) Seriously, a quick wipe down hardly makes you look like a crazy, over protective parent . . . . those giant fabric covers that you see a lot of parents using these days....

                                                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      Not nuts at all. I always did it with high chairs and with grocery carts. They also sell these things that fit over them so that the kid isn't touching anything except the cover you brought. I never bothered with that, but I can see why some would.

                                                                      Never be without wipes.

                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        I carried a small container of true cleaning wipes (as opposed to the diaper wipes) and I would wipe down EVERYTHING. I am sure people thought it was nuts.

                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          I wipe down EVERYTHING. I carry clorox wipes (and Wet ones for hands and faces) in my purse at all times. Especially good for restaurant high chairs, tables, shopping cars (ewwww...so many germs in those...think about the moms who are home wiht their sick kids they then take to the target or grocery store to get medicine...). I get some funny looks from wait staff, but generally, no one cares. My son saw someone else with a pack of wipes one day and asked the lady, "did you get those from my mom?"--he is that used to me whipping them out everywhere.

                                                                          Also, reading through the rest of these posts, please never beat yourself up for ordering off the children's menu. It may be "unchowish" to allow your child to eat chicken nuggets, but if it works, who cares? Kids' tastes will change over time, regardless. My 5-year-old used to eat all sorts of good and adventurous food, and now screams bloody murder if you come near him with polenta (or avocados, or spicy food, etc.). It has nothing to do with me; everything to do with being a kid. Hope it all helps.

                                                                        2. I don't wipe things like that unless there is something obviously gross. I am of the school that we are too germ-centric and that these germs, which have ALWAYS been on public high chairs, doorknobs and grocery carts, help build your immune system. Knock wood, but my son is 2.5 and has never even had an ear infection. Nothing more than a mild cold and only rarely with that. My sister is a big germophobe and keeps everything sterile-clean everywhere, and my nephew grew up with a slew of food and environmental allergies.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                            Yeah, I mainly do it to control what I can, knowing most of it is beyond me. My kids are both in preschool and child care full-time, so they are veritable germ factories, regardless.

                                                                            1. re: LizR

                                                                              Oh my goodness - that first year at school! All new germs.

                                                                            2. re: rockandroller1

                                                                              Yes. Exactly. We are sterilizing ourselves out of existence so that companies can sell more antibacterial products.

                                                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                I was thinking it's sort of analogous to sitting down to eat at a table that hasn't been wiped down. I wouldn't want to eat at such a table, so I don't know why I'd expect my child to eat a high chair that hasn't been wiped down, especially since kids tend to smear their food everywhere --clothes, hair, high chair--and adults do not.

                                                                                The problem is, when I dine out at a restaurant, I often see tables being wiped down by restaurant staff. I've only seen a high chair wiped down once (during the time I've been paying attention to high chairs, which, admittedly, is a relatively short amount of time in the scheme of my dining life overall). And I've already encountered lots of sticky high chairs.

                                                                                I suppose you could wait to see if the high chair is sticky, but by that point, your child is already installed in it. It just seems like it would be more efficient and less disruptive to wipe it down pre-emptively (or ask your server if someone would) than later wish you had.


                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                  I've worked in a lot of restaurants, and it was always someone's duty each night to wipe down the high chairs and menus. Note that 99% of my serving experience was at chains, so YMMV when it comes to indies, which often have less stringent and structured closing duties.

                                                                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                    I'm not actually surprised with a chain that this would be part of the duties, simply because those franchises probably have to meet fairly strict standards. Unfortunately, most of my dining takes place at littie indie restaurants. Hopefully, those places take care of wiping down their highchairs regularly. I was at an indie restaurant recently where they had about a dozen high chairs, not a single one of which had a full set of working restraint belts. :( They don't seem to be paying attention to their high chairs at all. I can't imagine they are wiping them down daily. :(.


                                                                              2. We often fed our child before we went to a restaurant, then just let him push cheerios around. We always carried sippy cups with us, too. I cleaned out my 1995 Honda over the summer and found two sippy cups in the trunk. My biggest tip for dining out with kids is that there are nights where it just doesn't work out. Always have an escape plan. If the kid is fussy and won't settle in, be ready for one of you to hustle to the car with the kid, while the other adult waits for the check and to-go boxes.

                                                                                We traveled a lot when our kids were small, and often we would feed them from the cocktail hour buffet in the concierge lounge. There is always a fresh fruit/veggie/ cheese tray, and usually a hot appetizer we could add to their plates. We were not shy about feeding our kids there (have you seen the adults shoving as many cocktail weenies as they can, into their face?). Then we'd hit the restaurant, and order maybe a dessert or appy for the kids while we ate our dinner.

                                                                                Any place without a booster seat is not child-friendly - I don't care what they say. If there is no changing table, I'd say change your kid in your car. But I'd wonder whether they were that kid friendly, too.

                                                                                1. like mosty items, practice at home. the whole idea that there are extra special rules for eatingin a restaurant is silly. if they learn good manners at home they have good manners in a restaurant

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: RichWhite

                                                                                    Yes, but as soon as they learn to talk they should also learn to order for themselves, as much as possible. "I'll have the pizza with olives please, and a glass of milk." It isn't *quite* the same as at home, although of course please and thank you should be expected there too.

                                                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                      Oh, thank you for that. We have a grandchild that I was coaching to order when she was - are you ready for this? - 16. She's gotten considerably better well in the ensuing 5 years, thank goodness.

                                                                                  2. 1) Go a bit earlier.. both to avoid crowds and get them home for a proper bedtime

                                                                                    2) Go to Brunch instead of dinner - brunches are often more kid friendly

                                                                                    3) They are easy when they are newborns and you can keep them in the carrier.. they get harder as they want to be interactive, and worse when they want to run - the highchair only works for so long. dinner at that point is tricky (this is about where my family is). One parent generally plays man-to-man defense at that point to keep them entertained while the other eats.... careful if they can wander in a more quiet restaurant that the child doesn't get in the way of the servers, even if you are following close by..

                                                                                    4) Depending on how they are eating, bring your own food - especially if you are still being careful about testing for allergens. Restaurant meals may have lots of ingredients - including butter.... we generally bring our own food for the rugrat.

                                                                                    5) No changing table? Its floor time.. got to make due..

                                                                                    6) In general you go out a lot less..

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                      >6) In general you go out a lot less..

                                                                                      I don't think this has to be the case at all. If you start them early, and make it known what the rules are, then you can take them out every single night (but yes, early). Practice makes perfect and all that. Sometimes my daughter sees other kids (sometimes friends of hers) running around restaurants, and you can sense that she is of two minds: a) that looks like fun, and b) man, would I ever get in trouble if I did that. I just have to say "sit bones" and she gets herself into her chair.

                                                                                      (and yes, sometimes I am told that I am the "meanest mom in the world!")

                                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                        True, but there's a limit, especially if you have some tasty takeout nearby. I don't really want to hit my local hot pot place with the kid - why? Because meals there take a lot time to savor, and I don't think I can realistically entertain him that long. Its also a decent amount of mental work - watching what's in his reach zone, make sure the servers don't place anything hot near him, etc. Then there's loading him into the car seat, making sure he's dressed warmly, getting the diaper bag together..

                                                                                        I also don't really want to bother other diners a lot - the boy does like to chatter, and although its cute, I don't want to spoil a romantic dinner at the table behind if he acts up. Most diners are pretty forgiving, but its not like they have any other option if you are sitting behind them..

                                                                                        Going out is a bit more effort and options are a bit more limited, so takeout and/or home cooking becomes more attractive.. we still go out, its just not "Hey, lets hit up that Ethiopian place two towns over" as a last minute lark..

                                                                                        1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                          Agreed on the hot spots - there are places where a kid just doesn't belong. Not only because it might make other diners miserable, but because the length of the meal and the somewhat stuffy (to a kid) or loud atmosphere would make the kid uncomfortable.

                                                                                          And yeah, the whole diaper bag business can make life harder - doing *anything* that gets you out of the house can seem daunting. But that doesn't last forever.

                                                                                    2. my advice is to take them to lots of Asian restaurants (which are often child-friendly, in my experience, particularly Thai and Chinese, but also Japanese restaurants), and to let them start using chopsticks early. My three year old granddaughter (not of Asian ethnicity, but her parents love Japanese food) handles chopsticks better than a fork, and the relative novelty of using them, since they don't use them at home, appears to help keep her entertained. She thinks of them as 'fun', not just a tool.

                                                                                      So I guess I am also echoing the advice others have given to have fun as well!

                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                        Interesting! Did your granddaughter start out with the "helper" chopsticks with the spring?


                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          We used chopsticks with rubber bands around them. Not too tightly, just enough that they'd come together.

                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                              They also make these chopsticks special for kids that are in cute shapes (ours has a seahorse at the top) that connect the two pieces. Makes it a little easier.

                                                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                Available at any Asian market, I assume?


                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                  I actually found mine in a toy store. The Asian markets do often sell a little plastic contraption that connects the two sticks though (or some Asian restaurants have them)

                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                    Near the bottom of this page there are a bunch of different ones:


                                                                                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                              I doubt it, I've been with them on some of these eating adventures and the chopsticks she used were the same as mine. Indeed, I didn't even know there was such a thing as 'helper' or 'starter' chopsticks.

                                                                                              Now, her form isn't exactly perfect :-) but the point is, she enjoys them! (I love the idea of chopsticks with seahorses, though, will have to search some of those out for a present for her, or for me :-))

                                                                                              I do agree with the advice to tip extra for the mess...chopsticks and rice and three year olds: not exactly a pretty combination! and then there was the time when my daughter (Granddaughter's mother) , at the age of around three, decided to dump the entire serving bowl of rice onto the floor at a Chinese restaurant....by the time we realized her intent, it was too late to stop her. Yes, children should be encouraged to have fun while dining out, but there should be limits..

                                                                                          1. I carried my own booster seat, as it could strap securely onto most any restaurant chair, had its own attached tray, and kept my daughter in one place. Those booster seats that perch precariously onto restaurant chairs are dangerous, even if used in a booth. This thing worked with the tray until she was too old to use it, and then we used the chair alone and pulled it up to the main table. I always knew it was clean and safe.

                                                                                            Go off hours, for the love of everyone else. Kids get cranky when hungry and tired, so eat an early dinner and leave before the couples arrive. If your kid starts crying, pick him or her up and take him outside immediately. No one wants to hear even a short cry in a restaurant, as it is disturbing to adults. Don't even bring your kid back in unless he or she has calmed down. You are not being even remotely civil if you let your kid cry in a restaurant while you eat. So, this means, be prepared to leave. That's right, have the waitstaff pack up your dinner and eat it at home. No one said this would be easy.

                                                                                            1. As I have stated in a similar thread, I believe it has to do with teaching them to behave and be comfortable at THE TABLE, no matter where that table may be.

                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                I'm new here, but de-lurked to agree with PotatoHouse on this. Teaching children how to navigate a restaurant is the key. I think actually going to a restaurant is practice for the kids, but it's also practice for the parents to know what they need to be teaching at home. I've had "uh-oh" situations where I thought, "O.K. We need to work on that at home so this doesn't happen again when we go out next." I also think that some kids just don't have the temperament/personality that is well-suited for restaurants until they are older, and some take to it from a young age. I think they are all teachable, though.

                                                                                                1. re: gardencook

                                                                                                  Thanks for delurking to add your input. I hope you stay delurked!

                                                                                                  I have a lot to work on at home!


                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                    It will come much more naturally than you can imagine. Baby Dairy will be picking up on behavior around him, and will model his on that.

                                                                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                      Never underestimate the intelligence, learning ability, and observational skills of a tiny one!

                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                        Exactly - in good ways and bad. Little pitchers have big ears and all that.

                                                                                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                          The most horrifying things that can come out of a toddler's mouth make for the very best stories years later!!

                                                                                              2. A bit late, but as someone who was a waitress in a family/chain restaurant, here are my two cents:
                                                                                                - This is obvious, but you know your kid's normal schedule. If they usually eat dinner at 5, please don't come in at 6 or later wondering why they're having a melt down.
                                                                                                -Kids are great, but they are extra work. I loved to go the extra mile for people with little kids, but it takes extra time. If you come in during the height of the dinner rush, If I have 6 other tables to handle, I cannot spend as much time getting you extra hot water to warm your bottle, or extra napkins the instant something spills. If you come outside the rush, I usually would even make kids napkin hats to wear and decorate while their parents ate.
                                                                                                -PLEASE remember there is usually someone sitting on the other side of the booth bench. I cannot tell you how many times a kiddo has stood up and bothered/poked the heads/screamed at the table next to them. Corner Tables = AWESOME with kids. Plus it usually gives them a bit of room to stand by the table without being in the way of foot traffic.
                                                                                                - I know that it's hard for kids to sit the entire time sometimes. But PLEASE DO NOT let them run in the aisles between tables. If there is an empty part of the restaurant, a lobby, outside, anywhere but where the servers have to walk. I am tall, if I am balancing a bunch of heavy, hot plates, it is hard to try to dodge and see if there are any little people running under my feet. I cannot tell you how many people think it is okay to let their kiddo stand/walk around right by their table, which is dangerous and makes my job harder.
                                                                                                -I have eaten out almost weekly with friends kiddos, and I know it isn't always easy. Kids are loud and messy. But please remember to tip your server extra- it takes twice as much effort sometimes for less tip $$, and oftentimes no one can be seated at that table until the booths, tables, and surrounding floors have been thoroughly cleaned. Those disposable table mats are fantastic!
                                                                                                - Bring your own sippy cup that your kid is used to. Yes, we have lots of lids and straws, but oftentimes they are much harder to handle. If you are using a restaurant's lid/straw- ask for the straw to be cut down shorter so it is easier to handle.
                                                                                                - You could have special (quiet) toys that only come out at restaurants, so they stay new and exciting.
                                                                                                -DEFINITELY wipe down the high chair before you use it- even if they were to be cleaned daily (usually they weren't) they still could get pretty gross.

                                                                                                Sorry this got a bit long. Most of the people on the post sound like considerate parents :-)

                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: ponygirl87

                                                                                                  Totally agree with everything ponygirl has said, but find it astonishing that most of it even needs to be said. At the same time, as a regular restaurant goer, I know that at least 50% of the population with kids needs to read this (and have it tattoo'd on their forearm).

                                                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                    You would not believe what some people think is allowed in restaurants... I have even had to explain to parents that your child may not come in the kitchen alone, so please supervise them, or please do not allow your child to smack other diners with their cutlery, the list is endless......

                                                                                                    1. re: ponygirl87

                                                                                                      I know - used to work in a restaurant myself, and still see the most stunning things as a patron. I've been known to kindly say to a child "It really isn't very nice to hit people on the head with a fork." Someone has to say it!

                                                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                        i got into it w a kid's mom because i told the kid she couldn't throw food at the nice elderly couple sitting at the next table :(

                                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                          You really have to wonder about people sometimes don't you?? Good for you for protecting the world from that kid!

                                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                            Great suggestions ponygirl, thank you.

                                                                                                            And, yes, it's truly amazing the things people have to be TOLD, when you think they would just know them. It's a crazy world out there.


                                                                                                  2. For me, the answer is simple.

                                                                                                    I don't. No babies/toddlers!

                                                                                                    I am the mother of a very unruly 19 month old (to the point where we are seeking behavioural therapy in the near future). I make one babysitting appointment per month (or twice) with his grandpa and we go out to a very nice adult restaurant, and we enjoy our meal in peace.

                                                                                                    We originally tried to go to family-style restaurants in the first 6-10 months but it wasn't a pleasant experience. When I *HAD* to (ie. travel), it was fast food or 4pm dinners (or 11am lunch). Off hours only.

                                                                                                    I cook almost everything at home and the fanciest restaurant meal our son gets is a Tim Hortons muffin on the go. If I had a more easygoing child then maybe I would follow other tips and tricks, but I prefer an adult only dining atmosphere to enjoy my food.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: poloprincess

                                                                                                      I am giving you a tip that is a lesson I learned the hard way, and I hope you will accept it in the spirit it is given. I truly believe that in a child below the age of about three or four (certainly in the six to 10 month range that you mentioned as not being pleasant) the behavior is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. The child senses that you are nervous and upset about going out and begins to act up. You get more upset and the situation cycles downward. I can understand your wanting an "adult only" atmosphere to enjoy your food, and certainly an occasional dinner out without your child is warranted. But if you never take the child to family-style restaurants he/she really never learns the expected behavior. I have friends that are petrified to ever travel with their kids. Not only are they missing out on the travel, but their kids are missing out too. And if they ever DO have to travel with the kids (stuff happens) the children simply have no idea of what is appropriate behavior. We learn by doing, and sometimes we have to bite the bullet and do that which seems unpleasant. But never, NEVER let your child know that you are afraid of their behavior. Expect good behavior, and make sure there are consequences if it isn't there (such as leaving without finishing the meal if its bad enough). I think kids (and pets) pretty much behave at the level we expect them to. And trust me when I tell you that it took me a long time to realize this. My children were far from perfect when they were little. But by the time they were teenagers they were literally traveling overseas by themselves, and I never worried about their ability to get along and get around.....

                                                                                                    2. We eat out with our now-3 year old often. slightly less so that we moved to the suburbs of NYC from the city, but at least a few times each weekend. We are lucky that our daughter is a good restaurant kid, but I suspect some of that comes from getting used to the eating out routine. We always have a number of foods and entertainment activities for her with us. Staples include -- cheerios or small crackers, plus cut up fruits or veggies -- grapes, strawberries, blueberries, apple or pear slices; carrot sticks/celery; cheese sticks or cheese cubes, etc. We don't usually load her up on snacks (cheerios/crackers) before the meal, but they are good for the stroll/car ride before or after. During the meal we supplement whatever we present her with using the fruits and veggies we have with us. while she's a pretty good eater, we want to make sure she's getting a balanced meal, which is sometimes hard in restaurant settings. We tried to avoid kids' menus, and most of the places we frequented in Brooklyn didn't have them. as a result, she developed some adventurous tastes for a 2 year old. At one Italian restaurant in Carroll Gardens that became her favorite, she would always start with a caesar salad (with noticeable anchovies in the dressing), and would have either tilapia baked in the wood burning oven topped with bread crumbs and herbs, or some of her dad's gorgonzola gnocchi (known as "Daddy's pasta"). Don't understimate your kid's palate if you don't assume that they will be limited to chicken fingers and fries. Tonight we went to an Indian restaurant and she wolfed down a ton of papadum with tamarind chutney (the tamarind dipping sauce was new tonight!), followed by a south indian fish dish steamed in a banana leaf with a healthy portion of plain rice, supplemented by some steamed green beans I brought along and some grapes. My daughter also has a nut allergy, so we are very careful what we feed her, but it hasn't stopped us from going out either. We ask questions about ingredients in dishes (I cook extensively so know what is likely to be dangerous, or where we might have issues).
                                                                                                      We always have a stocked diaper bag with us, which includes benadryl and an epipen. We also have a sippy cup of water at all times.

                                                                                                      Most places we go don't seem to have changing tables. We carried a fold out changing pad in the diaper bag as well as disposable changing sheets (like mini drop cloths) as well. We got creative with surfaces to use as a base, and if we drove did use the backseat of the car. Now our daughter is potty trained and that makes things a bit easier (even if it requires 5 trips to the bathroom during a meal).

                                                                                                      As for entertainment, we bring crayons, a magnetic write on board that can be erased, small quiet toys, etc. we also keep our little one fully engaged in our conversation. She doesn't get antsy at the table and though we go on th early side, can linger for multiple courses. she's a slow eater so doesn't get bored after finishing. we are always waiting on her to finish.

                                                                                                      As a very, very last resort, on the off night when she's cranky and squirmy and we are just trying to finish the last of our meal, we have kiddo apps on an iphone that can hold her interest until we can wrap up --- apps that can teach you how to write letters by requiring little fingers to trace over dots in the right order, or electronic puzzles -- where she drags the pieces into the correct location. I don't love to have her electronically plugged in during our time out, but for the last few minutes while we are waiting for a check, sometimes it's a real life saver.

                                                                                                      Finally, we are generous tippers. We know that it's extra work to wait on us with little one and appreciate the extra effort, the answering of all of our questions re ingredients and the proffers of tiny seafood forks for her little hands (which she adores).

                                                                                                      Good luck and keep trying. It does get easier, but if you do it often enough and suffer through some squimy stages, the kiddos come to see dining out as routine and will become pretty great dining companions. It does take a real commitment to keeping them entertained though -- engaging in conversation, drawing pictures with them, providing new things to look at while at the table. But i find that we can make just about anything on the table seem new and exciting, creating a "lesson" out of what it is, what it does, comparing it to a rocket ship, weaving it into a story, etc. We miss out on some adult conversation time, but it's great family time and our kiddo doesn't bat an eye at eating out.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: MAH

                                                                                                        I totally agree with you MAH about not underestimating a child's palate. Most parents in North America start with bland rice cereal or mushed peas for months on end, but a lot of evidence suggests that babies can simply start with regular table food when weaning onto solids at 6 months.

                                                                                                        Check out "Baby Led Weaning" by Gil Rapley for more information.

                                                                                                        When my son started solids at 6 months, I simply scooped my food off my plate and put it on his. He ate just fine - just be reasonable about any choking hazards (but puree not required) and let them go. Babies don't hate "gross food" if they don't know it's "gross"! My son was eating the same food as adults by 8 months (chopped easily and within reason of course but he had lots of teeth). Other diners were often shocked.

                                                                                                        My boy is now just as likely to eat my Hungarian chicken paprikash as a goldfish cracker.

                                                                                                        *Just watch the salt- all my homemade food was zero-salt until he was a bit older

                                                                                                        1. re: poloprincess

                                                                                                          Poloprincess, I could not agree more with your comment on starting solids. My husband and I were just talking about this over the weekend.

                                                                                                          Corporate America has done a fantastic job convincing parents that babies need to be feed "special" foods like baby food when, for the most part, it is completely unnecessary.

                                                                                                          We also feed our son off of our plate. I never purchased a single jar of baby food.

                                                                                                      2. DON'T give them toys to bang on the table EVER.

                                                                                                        DON'T give them games to play with that make beeping sounds or any other kind of noise.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                          The main point of dining out together is social interaction. ENGAGE your child in this. Don't give them toys and hope they'll not bother you.