How to Make Dining Out with Children More Enjoyable

A recent survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports showed that 58 percent of American adults eat out at least once a week. Unfortunately, some families with young, active children often find the experience of dining out to be more trouble than it's worth—and it's not just the parents who are finding that their dining experiences are being ruined by rambunctious children. Houston's KHOU 11 News recently reported that a local restaurant, La Fisheria, had decided to ban children after 7 p.m. The restaurant told the news station that they implemented the ban because too many children were allowed to run amok and were ruining the dining experience of others.

Don't Let Your Child be "That Kid"

Being a good parent means teaching your children life skills, including good manners. Yes, it is often easier to turn a blind eye to the fact that your children are playing tag in the aisle, annoying other patrons and causing the waitress to dodge your human missiles. But then you aren't teaching your children basic skills such as patience and proper table behavior, which they will need to know when they get older and are out with friends.

Of course, even well-mannered children have their limits. So if your restaurant is taking too long and your child is obviously losing patience, you may need to employ some of the following suggestions.

Bring Art Supplies

Many casual dining venues offer their young guests crayons and paper menus with puzzles and word games to keep them entertained. Unfortunately, small mom-and-pop joints and some ethnic eateries may not offer such activities, so try to keep a small kit of your own making in your car or in your handbag that includes crayons, coloring books or word or math games, such as Sudoku.

Have a Conversation with Your Child

Sounds like a simple idea, right? But, often, parents get so wrapped up in their own conversations that they forget about their offspring, who then start acting out because they are bored. At dinners out, it is important to make an effort to engage your young children in conversation about their day at school, what they are learning and about things they may be interested in. Do not, however, use the dinner table time to scold your child or bring up unpleasant topics. You do not want your children to dread future dinner times.

Dr. Laura Markham of also recommends that you have some interesting prewritten topics on hand to use as conversation starters. Some of her suggestions include, "Where would you like to vacation next?" or, "If you could talk to anyone in history, who would that person be?"

Bring a Tablet

Some restaurants just don't make it easy on families. Their services are so slow that the entire family begins to get restless. At these venues, your best course of action may be to hand your child a tablet or your smartphone and allow them to play games. Don't worry if you don't already own any games on your electronic device. There are plenty of complimentary ones that are suitable for children, such as the free Jewel Quest game. Make sure to turn the sound down so that other patrons around you won't have to listen to the beeping and music coming from the game.

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