6 Tips For Dining Out With Kids

The husband-and-wife blogging team of Jason and Amy Storch offer some wonderful guidance on dining out with children. They should know — in addition to being parents to two boys, Jason is the founder and editor of DC Foodies, and Amy writes the fabulously candid mama blog Amalah.

When Amy and I had our first son (Noah), we took four or five weeks off from eating out and did a ton of takeout and delivery. At the time, we lived in Cleveland Park, close enough to Heritage India for delivery, and their deliveryman knew us by name. When Noah was about 5 weeks old, we found a babysitter and went out for the first time and it was very unnerving.

After a very long night, we decided to find places that we could take Noah. We started with louder restaurants like 2 Amys, but then we realized that Noah slept a TON. It was common for him to sleep through an entire dinner. One night, we actually got brave enough to take Noah to Komi ... and he slept almost the entire time. (Seriously, Komi is a three-hour meal at LEAST). It wasn’t until the little fried donuts we ordered for dessert arrived that he woke up — and then a table of people who had been admiring him the entire night played with him until we were done with dessert. I’m sure we’ve occasionally annoyed people and we’ve definitely had to grab a child and bolt for the door and a stern talking-to ... but we’ve also been complimented on our children’s behavior and even been sent dessert from a nearby table MORE THAN ONCE, simply because they enjoyed seeing our family out together and having a nice time. (That’s the sort of compliment, by the way, that can make a parent’s YEAR.)

Over time, we’ve found our favorite restaurants to take Noah and Ezra to be 2 Amys and Ray’s the Steaks, but if those places aren’t convenient for your family, then here are some tips for how you can make dining out with your kids a little more bearable.

1. Just do it. Take the kids out with you! The more you take them out, the more your kids learn “restaurant manners."

2. Noise is your friend. A loud dining room will drown out the occasional shriek from your little ones.

3. Don’t feel like you’re restricted to restaurants with kids’ menus. Since the average foodie destination doesn’t have a kids' menu, bring something with you that you know your kids like, then encourage them to try something a little more grown-up. When all else fails, there’s always the bread basket.

4. Go out and have fun when your first child is still a newborn. So many young parents we know stay cooped up for the first three months after their first child is born. They don’t realize that they’re missing out on prime eating-out time. (Newborns sleep all the time anyway, and the notion of quarantining a healthy newborn has fallen out of favor.)

5. Keep a couple favorite toys in the bag that are “just for restaurants” and pull these out after the kids are done with their food. (In particular, ones that are not noisy.)

6. Don’t think of restaurant meals as a time to constantly shush your kids or pacify them with toys until it’s like they aren’t even at the table. It’s a family activity, and an important one at that. Talk, ask questions, color pictures together, and encourage them to make their own ordering choices. If your KIDS enjoy themselves, they’ll probably learn proper restaurant manners (and volume) a lot faster than if it’s simply something where they’re expected to sit still and entertain themselves while the grown-ups ignore them for an hour.