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Top Tips For Dining Out With Young Children

This is a sponsored post by Bonefish Grill. All thoughts, opinions, and words are my own. 

Planning to go out to eat with your family soon? If you are like us and have little ones, it can be stressful to take your kids out to eat. With a baby and toddler in tow, we have come up with some clever ways to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone! Before you head out to a fast food restaurant, I encourage you to look into other options! I’m also sharing one of your favorite family-friendly restaurants with you today.

There are many family friendly restaurants that are NOT fast food. One of our favorite restaurants to go to with our family is Bonefish. With a Bangin’ Dinner that is 2 for $55 that includes 1 Bang Bang Shrimp, 2 salads, and 2 small grilled fish or seasonal specials, it’s not only family friendly, it’s very affordable. For an additional $24, you can even add on one of their selected bottles of wine to make your evening even more special.

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Bonefish is also very family friendly. They provided crayons and coloring sheets for Levi to keep him entertained. And the service was great!

So, take your kids out with you. After all, they will need to learn how to behave in public when they get older, so taking them when they are little is a great place to start. Dining out with young children, even at nicer restaurants, just takes a bit of planning.

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Here are my top tips for how to stay sane when you are dining out with young children.

#1 Take along some entertainment.

We like to pack some special toys for Rebecca and Levi. They are only “out to eat” toys that we save for this type of occasion so they don’t get bored as quickly with them. A new book, a quiet toy, and a coloring book and crayons are all part of our “kit”.

You can make your own kit by purchasing a plastic shoe box, or saving a diaper wipe box for this reason. Just fill it with some new favorites and stash in your diaper bag or purse. Make sure that you rotate the toys once in a while, especially as your kids get older. Age appropriate toys are far more fun.

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#2 Go right after they have a nap.

A well rested child is a better behaved child. We all know that tired, hungry kids can make life miserable. So, when dining out with young children, make sure to plan around their nap times and before bed times. You’ll enjoy your evening much more when the kids are happier.

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#3 Feed the baby before going into the restaurant, and bring some small snacks to munch on.

Again, a hungry baby can be a cranky one. When possible, make sure your young kids have had a least a snack before going into the restaurant. Take along some favorite snacks for them to munch on while they wait for their food as well.

Most restaurants have crackers or bread for your toddlers to munch on, or they can “rush” your child’s food if necessary to get it out quicker. On the other hand, it’s far cheaper and healthier to order a bigger entree and share it with your young child than it is to order off the kid’s menu. Simply ask for an extra plate to share some with the kids.

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#4 Unplug as parents.

Put the phone down, and interact with your kids. It’s so tempting to just stick a couple of crayons or snacks in front of them, but make this time about family. Play “ISpy”, or tic tac toe with them while waiting for the food to arrive.

Color on the coloring sheets, or in the books you brought. You’ll create some lasting memories as well.

#5 Divide and conquer.

Have one parent go into the restaurant and order all the food while the other parent plays with the kids outside, or in the vehicle. When the food arrives, everyone comes to the table. This will help keep toddlers busy and avoiding what can seem like a very long wait.

#6 Let go of high expectations.

Yup, you are going to have to let go of the expectation that your children will behave perfectly each and every time you go out to dinner. After all, they have bad days just like adults do. When that happens, don’t give up. You may have to get your food to go this time around, but the point is to keep trying. Your kids WILL learn how to behave well in nicer restaurants.

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What are some tips YOU have for dining out with young children at a nice restaurant? Have you been to Bonefish Grill, or are you ready to try it?

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Kate Hansen

Monday 16th of March 2020

It was really helpful when you said to plan around their nap times when dining out with children. My parents are planning on coming to visit my family in a couple of weeks, and my husband and I want to take them out to dinner with our family, which includes our 3-year-old daughter. We'll make sure to keep these tips in mind once we find a restaurant to take them to!

Himali Parikh

Wednesday 21st of August 2019

A list of very good and useful tips to follow. We as parents get irritated very easily and do not try the next time. But, we definitely should. I was the lucky one because my daughter never made fuss in the restaurant. She used to enjoy the food that we give to her and then sit quietly. But, your tips are useful.

Australian Country Gypsy

Wednesday 7th of August 2019

Oh my goodness yes! Take your kids out to eat and unplug. Give them the opportunity to learn table etiquette, as you say it won't be perfect every time but it will become a learned habit over time. A good family friend always orders for the kids first, like when they first sit down, (especially at new restaurants) and then the adults take a bit more time with the menu if they want to try something new or a few minutes to explore the specials. Fed kids are always happier kids, but the experience of the evening is an important one. These tips are great!