I am currently having a 'giveaway' on my cleveland.com/parents/ site. Please click over there to check it out. However, the commenting system is not working well, so I will also be accepting comments on this site. Note: The prize is a $50 gift certificate to a restaurant on the East side of Cleveland, so if you aren't local, I wouldn't bother.
“Where should we go for dinner kids?” I asked one evening. It was a special night.
“I don’t know, as long as it is a ‘white tablecloth’ restaurant. Remember, Mom, I don’t like fast food,” replied Andrew (6 years).
“How about ‘different country’ food!” chimed in Gladys (4 yrs).
I shook my head, with a disbelieving pride. We don’t eat out as much as we would like, but my husband and I do love to dine. We always have. I remember the week we spent in Hong Kong – we decided to dine in restaurants specializing in a different region of China every night. On our eight-week trip out West we ‘refused’ to eat in a chain. That was interesting at times, but well worth it!
Many of our outings are slightly less exotic, but my children have been invited behind the scenes to see tandoori ovens, a Lebanese bakery, and have enjoyed live music at restaurants where they were the only kids. Those are some of my favorite memories.
Tips & Tricks for Dining out with Kids
1. Start easy and fun. Bravo! is a great place to start.
2. Make it a celebration of the kids.
3. Encourage the children to dress their best, but don’t make it fight.
4. At first, keep it short. Order quickly, and let the waiter know your timing.
5. Take an early seating/ reservation. Kids who are not hungry and tired do much better.
6. Make sure everyone is comfortable, including the kids (consider sleeves in summer).
7. Bring back-up supplies if you often need them: a booster, sippy cup, a couple straws, and wipes. (Leave the booster in the car. You can get it if needed).
8. Go easy on toys. One matchbox car, four crayons, and one mini notebook are more than enough. Leave toys that make noise at home.
9. Make your children part of the action. You are teaching them how to dine, so look through the menu together, discuss fork placement, and check out the décor. (Enjoy a conversation with your spouse later).
10. Order items that the kids enjoy. If there isn’t a sure-fire kids menu, then most restaurants have bread, butter noodles, plain rice, fruit or other familiar items that are usually used as ingredients. (Which you will order, and then the kids will eat your fabulous meal, leaving you with butter noodles.)
11. If possible, have your children order their own food. The younger ones will feel SO grown up. (I think my oldest was two when he figured out how to get refills).
12. If your kids are not behaving, take a break. I have taken my own out into the lobby for a brief conversation (ahem). It happens. Don’t give up, even if you have to try again another day. Soon enough you will do what my parents did, threaten to have coffee after dinner. (No!! Not the dreaded coffee sipping!!! That takes forEVER!!!!)
If you have made it through dinner (even if it wasn’t quite perfect) congratulate yourselves with dessert. (Yeah, the DQ drive thru is just fine).
Special Notes for Baby
1. If you are nursing (I did), a beautiful silk scarf draped over a shoulder can improve everyone’s comfort (and you’ll look great too).
2. Even the nicest restaurants will bring out water-for-tea that you can use to warm your bottle. Put a large cup in your oh-so-stylish diaper bag in case they don’t have something large enough for your bottle. Practice the technique before you go.
3. Make sure the diaper is fresh before you enter, not all nicer restaurants have changing tables. If there isn’t a table, use your car seat or stroller (or front pack if you walked in) to change the baby in the powder room.