12 tips for taking your child to restaurants

12 tips for taking your child to restaurants

Poor behavior can get in the way when going out to eat

Lucille Beseler, RDN

Is co-author of Nurturing with Nutrition and a former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics representing over 100,000 Nutrition professionals, while also active as a clinical dietitian in South Florida.

Article in collaboration with: Melanie Bazarte, PhD

Do behavior problems pop up when you're out to eat? These tips can help!

  1. Pick a family-style restaurant that is not too busy or overcrowded, and not too quiet or too noisy. Tell the server you want the food as quickly as possible. Things to look at (birds, jukebox, fish tank) and room to walk around helps too.
  2. Go early. Leave the house well before your child is hungry or sleepy. If you go past "hungry" into "starving", you are asking for problems.
  3. Sit near the activity or choose a secluded area: some children do better with the extra stimulation and some do not. Sitting in the right place can make a big difference in behavior: a booth may work better than an out of the way table, or vice versa.
  4. If you have a baby, pack a small bag with your baby's food, utensils, bib, and cup. 
  5. Make sure there is a high chair/booster seat. 
  6. Walk your baby until the food comes, or let your older children explore with you after food orders have been taken. 
  7. Tell your child what you expect ahead of time and set limits: sit for safety, no running around; use inside voices. 
  8. If you want your child to eat, do not let him or her fill up on liquids, crackers, or bread before the food comes.
  9. Always take a rescue kit for entertainment and never expect a child to sit patiently. Attention spans vary from age to age and child to child; be safe and plan for a different activity every 10 minutes. 
  10. Leave an extra-nice tip if your child made a mess OR… Put a sheet on the floor under the highchair. Relax, knowing that when the meal is over, you simply roll up the mat, go home, shake it on the grass, and throw it in the washer. 
  11. If your toddler or older child is misbehaving, take him to the lobby or outside and tell him, "Your behavior is unacceptable, we'll wait here until you're ready to go back to the table". Always go back to the table so kids will learn that misbehaving is not a ticket to going home. 
  12. Remember to acknowledge good behavior. It's not easy to sit still or be neat when you're little!

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