Crashing the Party: Knowing When It’s OK to Bring the Kids
You don’t have to skip dining out just because you require a high chair at the table, but do pay close attention to the cost of the restaurant, time of day you choose to dine, and tipping habits.
Dine out earlier in the evening when restaurants are less crowded and your child isn’t nearing bedtime. Rickenbacher advises using child-friendly restaurants as a low-stress way to introduce kids to good dining out behavior, such as staying seated in a chair, using utensils, and talking in an inside voice. Also, come prepared—bring some snacks so if the food doesn’t come out right away, your child doesn’t get cranky. “[And] bring along a restaurant survival kit with crayons and other fun things to do so your kids aren’t bored,” adds DeBroff.
In a restaurant geared for kids, games and activities are often provided as part of the experience—but don’t assume all bets are off. Don’t let kids run wild in the restaurant, and don’t take the wait staff for granted.
“If your table is a real disaster area when you get up, it’s nice to leave a little extra for a tip,” says Rickenbacher. “Even in a place where tipping isn’t customary, slip them a dollar or two as a ‘thank you’ if your kids leave behind a real mess.”
Another strategy to make eating out less stressful is to practice at home. Turn your dining room into a pretend restaurant and help your kids learn the behavior you expect from them in public. Make it fun by allowing kids to dress up, help plan the menu, or drink milk from fancy glasses.
“While we might be able to live with our kids being noisy at the dinner table at home, there has to be an ability to set very different expectations in public,” says DeBroff.
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