Eating Out with Kids

Posted by in No-Cry Discipline, No-Cry Picky Eater

Do you enjoy dining out with your family but avoid it because it never turns out as fun as you hoped?

Spend the evening worrying about others looking your way?

You don’t have to give up eating out!

With a few simple changes at home (we all know great kids are grown within the home) you’ll be on your way to fun meals out with the whole family!

Tips for Eating Out with Kids


Eating Out with Kids

Johanna, age 2

Have realistic expectations.

Children can be both excited and bored when at a restaurant. They can find it difficult to sit in one place for the length of time necessary to order, wait, eat, and pay for the meal. This improves with age, development and practice. With a good game plan, you can get through the training period and even enjoy the experience.


Pick the right restaurant.

Choose a restaurant based on its level of child-friendliness. What’s important? The availability of a children’s menu is important, of course. But make sure it actually includes food your kids will eat. Avoid busy places that take too long to seat you at a table. Look for booster seats or high chairs. Private booths or eating nooks are better than one large open room. And a noisier, family-friendly atmosphere is always a plus. (Save the hushed candlelit ambiance for adult-only nights out.)


Teach restaurant manners at home.

If you are casual about mealtime manners at home, don’t expect your children to miraculously develop table manners because you happen to be sitting in a restaurant. Practice good manners at home for every meal, and your children will be prepared when you eat out.


Have longer sit-down meals at home.

Typically, at home we call our children to the table when all the food is ready, and then excuse them as soon as they are finished eating. If you want to practice for restaurant visits it’s a good idea to have them come to the table a few minutes earlier. Then sit and chat for a bit after you are finished with the meal. Make it fun by telling stories or talking about upcoming plans. Not only will this be great practice for eating out, it’s a wonderful family-bonding ritual to introduce into your home.

Dine out at your regular meal time.

When possible, eat out at your usual meal time. Go before the kids become famished and tired. If you must go out later than your usual time, provide your children with a snack at the normal time, and allow them to have a smaller meal at the restaurant, or to eat half the meal and bring the rest home.


eating out with kids the no cry solution

Josie, age 2

Review your restaurant rules before you go.

Be very specific and leave no stone unturned. A sample list of “restaurant rules” might be something like this:

  • Sit in your seat.
  • Use a quiet inside voice.
  • Use your silverware, not your fingers.
  • Have nice conversation, no bickering.
  • If you don’t like something, keep your comments to yourself and fill up on something else.
  • If you have to use the restroom, ask me privately and I’ll take you.


Ask for an immediate appetizer.

Many restaurants automatically bring bread or chips to the table as soon as you are seated. If this isn’t the case, ask for something to be brought out for the kids. This will ward off hunger and provide something to do before the meals arrive.

Prevent boredom.

Bring along a few simple toys like a deck of cards, plastic animals, or small quiet toys that can keep the kids occupied while they wait. Nothing noisy – you don’t want to annoy other diners!

The No-Cry Solution: Eating Out with Kids

Ethan, age 7 months


Do have realistic expectations.

Don’t imagine that eating out with kids is the same as dining without them. When you take kids to a restaurant the focus is not the cuisine or the atmosphere. It’s all about controlling the excitement and boredom, teaching your children formal manners, and having quality family time.


Eat and Run 🙂

Done eating? It’s time to go! The longer you stay, the more likely your children will run out of patience. Plan ahead – Ask for to-go boxes and the check at the same time you order your food. This way, if you have to leave because of a tired or whiny child, you can make a fast get away.


Now isn’t the time for food exploration.

Stick with familiar foods. If the grilled cheese sandwich your child ordered turns out to be Swiss cheese on sourdough it is okay to allow your child to eat the French fries and pack up the sandwich to go. A restaurant is not the place to battle over unfamiliar foods.

Eating Out with Kids

Alyssa, age 4

Not having fun? Take a breather.

If a child’s behavior gets out of hand, take her to the restroom or out to the car for a break so that she can calm down. If she continues to act up, don’t be afraid to ask for doggie bags and leave the restaurant. But don’t give up! Review your expectations and try again.

Need more discipline tips?  Check out The No-Cry Discipline Solution for tips, tricks, and advice in teaching your children the best behavior without losing your cool or theirs!

Share: How do you make eating out with your kids enjoyable?


  1. Thanks for the great suggestions! Eating out is hit and miss with our 18 month old but we find we have the most success when we try to get to the restaurant during a non-peak time. Having lunch at 11:45 instead of 12:30 means no waiting for a table or food and a lot less other patrons that he wants to go and meet 😉

    • A really great idea! It’s also smart since servers won’t be super-busy and rushed so they may be more patient with your little chatterbox!

  2. We have a fussy eater, so while we will battle a little over foods at home, if we go out we’ll order her nuggets and chips because we know she’ll eat it without a big fight/scene, and we don’t often go out so one “bad” meal now and then isn’t going to ruin her health in the long run

    We’re also lucky in that when family is organizing lunch or dinner out for any occasion they will ask us what suits for sleep/bed times so we don’t have to keep either of the kids awake and get there with then grumpy and overtired, instead we can leave when they’re getting tired and transfer them into their beds when we get home

    • How wonderful that your family puts your children into the planning! Of course, one ‘bad’ meal once in a while isn’t going to hurt your kids 🙂

  3. As our firstborn (turning 3 next week) gets older, we’re actually finding it harder to eat out, and now we just had our second. Thanks for the suggestion to have longer sit-down meals at home. I think that one will help us most!

    • You are most welcome! Don’t forget to check in here to let us know how it is going for you! And congratulations on the newest addition to your family.

  4. These are great suggestions for eating out! We have found that “restaurant skills” are important skills to acquire. I have a bag I keep in my car for such outings. It is full of crayons, stickers, disposable place mats, and bibs…everything you need to make eating out with little ones a success.

    • What a wonderful idea – to have an activity bag for eating out! If you keep it in the car and refill as needed it will be a lifesaver many times over.

  5. I often ask my son what he would like to eat when outside and ask him to order his own menu so that he gets excited. Once in a while getting them to do their things on their own gives them a more satisfied feeling.

    • Well done! Having your child order their own meal is great for helping instill independence and makes eating out something to look forward to.

  6. These are excellent and very practical tips! Thank you! We haven’t attempted to eat out much with our little guy, but this post helps give me courage to try! 🙂

    • Have fun with it LeeAnn! 🙂