It was exactly a year ago that I wrote my first blog entry for Atlanta Eats titled Dinner for Two and a Half. At the time, I had an eight month old and thought I had the whole “dining with kids” thing completely figured out. Now that I’m older, wiser, and have a little more parenting experience under my belt, I’d like to share with you what I left out and some good tips I’ve learned over the past year:
- Avoid the Children’s Menu – It seems like a no-brainer to order the $4.75 kid’s meal that consists of chicken nuggets, mac ‘n cheese, a drink and cookie, but is that what you really want your child to be eating? Dining in a restaurant is a great way to introduce your child to new foods (and no, I’m not suggesting that you order them a $30 entrée). Instead of ordering off the kids menu, order a smaller plate off the appetizer menu, a few side dishes such as a baked potato and steamed vegetables, or, simply share a portion of your entrée with them.
- Clorox Wipes, Don’t Leave Home Without Them – I have the travel pouches of these stashed everywhere! You never know when you’re going to come across a crusty highchair, a table that needs to be wiped down, or, when you’ll need to sanitize a changing table before laying your little one on it. Stick them in your purse, diaper bag, car, anywhere you can, these are an absolute must!
- Bring Appropriate Toys – You’ll want to keep your little one entertained while out at a restaurant, but make sure that the toys you take are not going to be a nuisance to others. While your precious pumpkin may love his child-size laptop that can count, sing, and tell stories in both English and Spanish, others will most likely find it super annoying! Leave any toy that makes a lot of noise at home.
- Know When to Say When – The only thing worse than an unruly kid is an unruly parent! Don’t be that parent who rolls their eyes, chugs their wine, and ignores their child’s bad behavior – it’s not fair other diners or your child (especially if you’re at a restaurant past their bedtime). Before things get completely out of control, ask your server to box everything up, pay the bill (leaving a nice tip!), and get the heck out of dodge!
- Put Your Sitter on Speed Dial – My little boy is currently going through a phase in which he’s a mini-Houdini who loves to escape the constraints of his high-chair and who I suspect may pitch for the Braves one day just from watching the way he can throw a sippy cup across the room. To sum it up, the only restaurant that I’d be comfortable taking him to right now would be one of those with large singing animals, cardboard tasting pizza, and a ball pit. In a few years, I’m sure that I’ll enjoy a nice dinner out with my little man, but until then I’ll keep my sitters on speed dial!
As you can see, I’ve learned quite a bit over the past year! Let me know, do you have any additional tips for dining out with small children?