How to enjoy a family meal at a restaurant without dying of embarrassment or wanting to trade your kids in

It’s a special occasion; it’s the end of the week; you’ve had a big day; or, you simply don’t feel like cooking and cleaning up after a meal that the kids will probably whinge about anyway.

So heading out for something to eat sounds like a logical plan, right? Except when dining out with kids, things can go very bad very very quickly. So how can you ensure your meal out with the family doesn’t end in tantrums, tears and a table full of food spilled all over the floor?

Here’s what you need to do.

Step one – Accept the fact that dining after 7pm won’t happen.

The earlier you go, the more likely of a successful meal without hearing “I’m hungry” and “Where is the food?” and, my favourite, “I don’t want to wear my shoes any more.”

Seriously, you’re in a restaurant. Put on your flippin’ shoes.

Step two – Bring plastic ware.

Because if the restaurant doesn’t have plastic cups, then there is a pretty good chance at least one child will drop the glass one all over the floor. And then try to walk on it.

Without shoes.

Step three – Order chips when you order your drinks.

Time it right and you may even be able to actually enjoy a glass of wine in silence while the kids eat the chips as an appetiser.

Step four – Ask for extra sauce.

No matter what you order. Tomato sauce goes with everything.

E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Same goes for juice.

Step five – Use this outing as a chance to practice basic manners.

You know those basic table manners you’ve been instilling in the kids for months? Now it’s time to put those rules into place. Make it a competition. And use ice cream as a reward.

If the kids misbehave, then more dessert for you.

Step six – Expect to have a child sitting on you.

dining with kids sl

You’ve probably had plenty of practice eating with only one hand at home. So simply take this skill out with you.

Step seven – Bring a timer.

Actually bring two, or three – have one for each child. And once the kids are finished their meals and you have enjoyed about three bites of yours, put on the timers and tell them they cannot make a sound until the timers goes off.

Step eight – Learn to speed eat.

Because, once that timers go off, it’s game on.

Step nine – Tag team when it’s time to go.

Waiting for the bill to arrive can be the longest three minutes of your life when you have kids. So rock, paper, scissors your partner to see who gets the task of paying the bill and who gets to start the walk to the car with the kids.

Because trying to pay the bill (usually in the front of a crowded restaurant) with the kids behind you is never going to end well, especially after they are hopped up on tomato sauce and juice.

And still freakin’ shoeless.

Step 10 – Expect the kids to be hungry again the moment you arrive at the car.

Have a light snack waiting for them in the car.

Perhaps a light tranquillizer too…

Step 11 – Finally, revel in the fact that you get to come home to a clean kitchen (and a full belly).

It’s not something that happens often (well in my household anyway), but when it does, and when the evening doesn’t end in public embarrassment, then that’s a win for everyone (even if we lose a couple shoes along the way…)

Check out our other how to guides, such as how to put a baby to sleep, how to survive the first three months with a newborn and how to convince your baby to clean the house.

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