Now that you have little ones in your life there may be times when it feels like some of the things you used to enjoy are out of reach.  At least for now.  Activities such as dining out with your spouse, family or friends might seem a little daunting when you consider the temperament of kids.  Restaurants have lots of interesting new things for them to see and the urge to explore might be too much for them to overcome.  And we shouldn’t expect them to, after all, exploring is how they learn.  Fortunately, the activities you loved to indulge in before becoming a parent don’t have to be out of reach.  Through trial and error I’ve learned what works personally and share these key learnings with you below.  Consider using some of these options the next time you dine out.  Our lives don’t have to change drastically when we have little ones in tow, we just have to get a little creative and adjust accordingly.

Go Early

If you’re able to, get to the restaurant of your choice at the start of their lunch or dinner service. This will ensure your meals are the first ones out of the kitchen before the rush of a packed dinner crowd begins.  This will also allow you all to get settled without too many distractions.

Kids Eat First

We all know that kids have short attention spans and waiting for a meal when they’re hungry is asking a lot.  If their meal is delivered first they can begin to chow down right away and you’ll have a happy, content child on your hands vs. a frustrated hungry one.  Many family restaurants are very accommodating with this type of request.

Save Drinks To The End

Eating out may be a treat but we still want to be sure our little ones are eating and getting the most out of their meal. Save drinks until they’ve eaten as much as they can to ensure they’re not filling up on drinks vs. food.  The more time spent eating the better.

Activities Are Your Friend

In the event that you DO have to wait a little longer for your meals to arrive or your child has eaten and your meal has just arrived, consider bringing along activities to keep your little one occupied.  Some restaurants help with this and provide colouring or activity pages along with crayons.  While your little one is focused on creating their next masterpiece, you’ll have some time for adult conversation and a chance to enjoy your meal.  Another option is to bring along small toys that your child enjoys playing with and you know will keep them satisfied.

Go For A Quick Walk

OK, moment of truth.  Before I had Miss O I have to admit that I silently judged parents who let their children wander through the restaurant.  However, my perspective changed as Miss O got older and I realized that in order for the meal to go smoothly, she might need a few minutes to stretch her legs.  As I mentioned, there are lots of new things for kids to see at restaurants so you can’t blame them if they want to explore a little.  Depending on the restaurant, a quick walk isn’t a big deal and other diners may not be bothered by a cute little visitor.

In the event that there’s a meltdown (either yours or your child’s) get your meal to go.  The time spent out with your child is worth it regardless of how long or short it lasts.  I’ve found that Miss O observes and picks up on social cues when we’re out and about and in different situations.  So the experience is well worth it.  It’s a treat we enjoy as a family at least once a month.

What are some of the methods you’ve learned over the years?