Dinner for 2 1/2

Pre-baby, I’ll admit to cringing when a crying child interfered with my dinner date or enjoying a glass of wine with girlfriends. I had no comprehension of the trials and tribulations new parents faced, and frankly, no sympathy. Ignorance is bliss, so it’s only fitting that I was incredibly optimistic about the first outing to a restaurant with my husband and new baby…

“Table for two and half” my husband said to the hostess and smiled. She had a confused look until my husband held up the infant carrier that contained our eight week old son. We were confident that he would sleep through dinner (he always slept at that time) but, minutes after our entrees arrived, my husband was rushing our wailing little one out of the restaurant. Diners around us either gave me a half-hearted “bless your heart” smile or whispered what I’m certain were snarky comments to their dining companions. Rather than declaring the evening a total disaster (we didn’t even get dessert), I chalked it up to the rookie mom mistake of poor planning. Since that experience four months ago, I’ve developed the strategy below for dining out with small children:

  • Call ahead and make sure the restaurant is child-friendly. Most restaurants are more than happy to accommodate smaller guests and will usually seat you at a table that is close to the exit.
  • Know your child’s schedule. Try to pinpoint when your baby will sleep straight through a dinner out and when they’re most likely to cry because they’re hungry. You won’t get this right 100% of the time, but following your child’s schedule will more often than not result in dining success.
  • Dine during off hours. Visit the restaurant at times it’s less crowded, like late afternoon or early in the evening.
  • Distractions are key. Bring a favorite toy, coloring books, perhaps an iPad for older children. Keep their little hands and minds busy.
  • Have an evacuation plan. Know your exit route in case of a meltdown. Plan ahead to excuse your child from the table before a scene takes place.

It’s all about being considerate of those around you, but I think that also goes for those dining without children. If you see a mom out with a crying baby, put yourself in her shoes for just a moment. Let her know it’s okay when she begins apologizing profusely and is on the verge of tears herself.   And finally, when you see a mom with a well-behaved child in a restaurant, tell her you noticed and that she’s doing a great job – I guarantee you that she doesn’t hear it often enough.

What are your tips for dining out with a small child?


  1. Grace Marie:What a great article! As a woman with no children these are obstacles I never think of. thanks for sharing!
  2. Alice:Great article! I have two young-ish children (6 & 4) and we never shied away from eating out. We just did it at non-rush times. We always got great service (no one else in the restaurant!), food came out fast (no one else in the restaurant!), and learned of many Early Bird specials around town (yes, places still do that! probably because there is no one else in the restaurant). Another great tip is to look at food options for the kiddos either in advance or as soon as you sit down, then place their food order at the same time you place your drink order. Ask the server to bring their food out first - happy kids, happy parents. Now that the kiddos are older and are able to be around other people without fear of shrieking kids, we always get comments on how well behaved our kids are in public. :)
  3. Heather:Great article!!
  4. Lindsay:Love the article! It reminded me there was a day long ago that I cringed at the sight of children in a restaurant, too. The strategies are great. My children are old enough to sit quietly in a restaurant and I still follow "the rules". Thanks for writing this.