Time it right- i.e. if you're going to dinner, perhaps the early bird special is the best fit for your family (it is for mine). Going too late = hungry and cranky kids
Keep your expectations low- don't expect perfection, spotless kids, or five star dining, it just isn't often feasible with little ones in tow. Be excited for the outing whatever that looks like and enjoy the company.
Have a pre-meal talk in route- My little guys get so excited about going out they can barely contain themselves. It can be a good idea to talk about behavior expectations, voice level (always a problem for us), food choices, and so on.. on the way to to the restaurant.
Pick a family friendly spot- kids do not appreciate fine dining, save that for date night! When dining with wee ones, stick to a family friendly spot when possible. Dining at a restaurant that welcome's kids and is equipped for families (i.e. high chairs, fun kids cups, coloring, and kids menus) is generally a happier experience for everyone
Be prepared to entertain- it's always a good idea to pack games and a few toys that are easy to play at the table and not disruptive to the whole restaurant (i.e. go fish cards, small figurines, activity books etc)
Pack your own place mat- no really, I'm not crazy, bringing a disposable place mat is SO helpful. These Table Toppers from Neat Solutions are great; eliminate germs, make it easier for little ones to comfortably dig in to their food and it makes clean up a breeze. You just stick them down on the table and roll them up and throw them away when you're done.
Bring a good attitude- truly if you are frustrated before the meal starts, there is really no point. Embrace the adventure, be engaged with the kids, and have fun. Sometimes when I take my boys out I have to get a little creative.. i.e. if the food is taking a long time we might take a walk, or I'll teach my guys tic-tac-toe, or play I-Spy etc.
If you were treated well, tip well- If your server was great with your kids and thoughtful with their service of your family, tip them well, especially if you frequent the restaurant.
Know when to call it a night- always best to end on a good note (or at least end before there's a full meltdown) if you can. Sometimes that means no dessert, or evening boxing the rest of the meal up to go. I find that my boys give me signs when they've had enough; always best to listen.
BRING WIPES- dinner with the kiddos can be fun, but almost guaranteed to be messy. My boys always seem to be covered in ketchup no matter what meal it is! Bringing wipes (and the right wipes) is essential. We've been using the simply clean wipes (with TripleClean Technology) from Huggies. They are free of harmful chemicals yet are great for tackling sticky boys and definitely a multipurpose wipe (great for hands, bums, faces, tables, and just about anything). They are also an affordable option (especially when purchased at Walmart).
Thank you to Huggies for inspiring me to write this post and embrace the fun and adventure without fearing the mess! I will always have wipes on hand because Kids Outgrow Diapers, Not Messes. Check out this great video and check out Huggies for sale at Walmart.
I'd love to hear about your dining out adventures and your tips for success! Thanks as always for stopping by!