Dining Out With Kids

Dining Out With Kids

I admit it, when I was young and unencumbered by little ones I rolled my eyes when families piled all of their babies and toddlers into a booth near me at a restaurant. I steeled myself against their eventual shrieks and cries. I held my breath hoping to avoid flying napkins and baguettes. I commiserated with a waitress as toddlers tore up and down the aisle twisting her up in their game of tag.

For the first few years of motherhood, I tried to avoid the circus of dining out with children. I like my kids to be kids–to play and run and have fun. However, people spend a lot of money going out, and I didn’t want to be the loud family interrupting their night. I also didn’t have interest in paying for food my kids didn’t want to eat or ordering a meal I might not have time to touch because of constant bathroom breaks, food cutting, and mothering.

dining with kidsBeyond potential bad behavior, suddenly I worried about cleanliness and health like I never had before. I stewed over the safety of going to restaurants. Did the employees really wash their hands? What kind of pollutants lived in the water? How could we trust the chef to keep our kids safe? Kind of neurotic, I guess. But that’s motherhood! The few times we went out in the first few years, we hired a babysitter and enjoyed dinner as a couple.

As the kids got older, we started to venture out tentatively. At first, we exclusively hit restaurants with playgrounds. With no incidents bigger than a skinned knee and a shoe lost outside of the ball pit, we eventually graduated to a local restaurant–the kind of restaurant with crayons on the table.

I smiled politely as we entered. I apologized with my eyes to other diners about any spilled drinks, loud voices, or coloring outside the lines that might be about to occur. Then the funniest thing happened.

The kids behaved perfectly.

No screams uttered. No fits pitched. They engaged with the waiter politely. They marveled as our waiter poured cold filtered water from a tap for them into little juice glasses. The water tap system at this restaurant is pretty cool looking, I admit. It also assuaged any neurotic concern I had about the waiters filling glasses in the back with lead-tainted hose water.

As my son sipped his cold water, he offered an astute, “Delicious.” His tone and delivery came out so adult, that I nearly snorted my coffee through my nose with laughter. Both kids ordered spaghetti and managed to keep it off their clothes (I did later find a noodle tangled in my little girl’s curly hair, but no harm, no foul).

Overall, I am just so impressed with my kids. Our first time out in the grown-up world and they handled it better than I do. We had a great time eating and chatting. I felt like I was hanging out with old friends, not two little kids!

Motherhood is full of so many surprises. I really appreciated the opportunity to see how polite, mature, and fun my kids behave out in the wild. Far from being the annoying circus sideshow I expected, dining out with my kids turned out to be a special memory for all of us. We eat out about once a month now, and it’s always a fun experience to hang out, try new food, and play tic-tac-toe on the back of a paper placemat!


This post was written by R. Wilcox


  1. Lyn says

    We started taking our daughter out to dinner with us shortly after she was born and she always behaved appropriately (except one time, and I simply picked her up, took her outside and left my husband to pay the bill). I think that a lot of kids behaving properly is in part , what the parents expect from them AND, when they are young planning ahead to have something with you to keep them quietly entertained at the table, because there is always going to be the restaurant that is extremely slow in serving, etc. I also always brought a healthy snack with me in the event that the food was slow in getting there.

    My personal feelings are that some people may only get the chance to eat out once in a blue moon and I certainly wasn’t going to make their dinner miserable because my child was having a crying fit or thinking they could run around the restaurant like they were at home. Learning good manners never hurt anyone and certainly helps them in many situations as they are growing up and becoming an adult.

  2. jamie braun says

    i love that we moms always expect the kids to misbehave and are surprised when they are good! im that way too!

  3. Chris says

    It’s very interesting info! Thanks a lot for it.

  4. Betty Baez says

    lol! im actually more shocked that they ordered spaghetti and kept it off of them that is not a choice for us when we dine out otherwise ill have saucy kiddos

  5. Bekah Kuczenski says

    That’s a proud mommy moment! I always feel like I must be doing something right when my daughter behaves in public… Right now she is a toddler so we don’t go to restaurants, but we will eat out at a hot dog stand or something, small steps lol.

  6. courtney b says

    dining with my kids is a nightmare! tons of screaming, I try to avoid it…

  7. Christy I says

    I always feel bad for the other people eating out when my kiddos are loud and cause a scene. I just don’t want anyone’s night being ruined

  8. I always prepare for the worst and hope for the best when it comes to dining out with my children. I have been pleasantly suprised the last few times we have taken them out though and it makes me more willing to go to new places.

  9. Rhian says

    How many bathroom trips do you usually have to take? My niece just loves to check out the bathrooms at restaurants so we normally have to take several trips even if she doesn’t actually have to go…

  10. marissa lee says

    dinning out with my daughter isn’t that bad…she has her moments but she is pretty good most of the time…thank you for sharing.

  11. Vanessa Coker says

    Like another reader, my husband and I too took our son out to dinner with us shortly after he was born and he just took on to it. It has never been a problem (knock-on-wood). 🙂

  12. Kenzi says

    I think that as long as children are taught manners and politeness, and know how to behave in public (as well as understanding what the consequences will be), they will do well in places like restaurants. Unless you are blessed with extra “spirited” children 🙂

  13. Chris Alejandro says

    That is impressive! Great job!

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