Eating Out With Small Kids: A Survival Guide

Remember when heading out for a meal was a pretty painless exercise?

Then came along kids. And this once simple and straightforward outing turned into something slightly more complex.

Yep, we hear you and we definitely feel your pain. From where to go, what to take, what to order, even where to sit, every single decision can influence whether you have a good time or a ‘god-let-the-ground-swallow-me-up’ kind of time.

So here’s our survival guide to dining out with the little darlings.

Choose your venue wisely

Your all-time fave hang-out – pre-kids – may not be so accommodating for big bulky stroller (as it was for tequila slammers!) It might not care to squeeze in high chairs. Maybe it’s a spot where a happy-clappy baby may be a tad out of place. Or where a peckish pre-schooler will be pee’d off when it turns out there are no nuggets on the menu. Take a rain check and only go on date night. Or when the kids are 18. Or 30.

It’s all in the timing

As a general rule of thumb, think ‘the earlier the better’ when it’s come to eating out with small kids. The pluses here are plentiful. Less wait, less crowd, less stress and less stressed servers. And therefore probably a lot less chance of super-hangry small people starting a riot.

If you spot a booth, nab it 

Wedge in your little lovelies and save yourself the problem of curious kids on the prowl. The only snag in this plan? Chatty little offspring popping their heads over the divider. You’ve lucked out if it’s another kid-containing family on the other side. Bonus points if you’re seated next to sympathetic grandparents.

Go packed and prepared

Pack it all. Chuck in sippy cups, aeroplane spoons, a massive bib – or three. Throw in jumpers, hats and cardigans in case of ‘I’m sooo freezing, Mum!’. Bring crayons, pencils, books, oh alright, we mean an iPad. Always bring a shedload of wipes for, well, just about bloody everything. And cram in loads of snacks for when the food is taking too long for the kids (like, er, more than twenty seconds).

Ask away

Want a bigger table, a corner spot, an area closer to the buffet, or further away from the bar (who needs extra temptation, eh)? Need more water, tons more napkins or just a much bigger bread basket to keep the munchkins happy and carb-ed up? Well, don’t hesitate to pipe up.

Learn to eat one-handed

Probably a Mum skill you’ve already well and truly mastered, but this can come in very handy when eating out when trying to stop your little ones making music with the salt and pepper shakers. Or juggling the cutlery. Or making princess dresses from the tablecloth. All while you’re scoffing carbonara.

Be lovely

Especially to the serving staff. Get ‘em on your side and you’re half way to winning. Of course, it should go without saying, but don’t be oblivious (letting the kids do the ‘Macarena’ on the table while you sample the Sav Blanc selection – outside). And don’t be gross (nappy changing at the table is never a good look). Just be so freaking awesome and goddamn lovely, the staff will happily throw open their doors next time you and the family are passing by – and not slap up a closed sign and hide behind the dessert counter.

Or just consider take out

For lower blood pressure, less military-operation-style planning and frankly just the opportunity to eat your meal, at a leisurely pace, with both hands.

But, hey, where’s the fun in that?

If your crew’s not up to eating in public yet, make the dinner rush easy on yourself and check out our post about 10 quick and easy things to make in an air fryer that aren’t chips!

Avatar of Sacha Burkett

Sacha has been a writer and journalist for over a decade. A happy mama of two, wife to one, Sacha is a lover of books, wine and sleep - all of which she would generally like more of!

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