Taking children out in public can be tricky business. They’re unpredictable. And no matter how awesome we are at parenting, our kids can quickly turn into wild beasts and there’s nothing we can do about it. But even though we don’t eat out very often, I’ve learned a LOT of things that can make it less chaotic and prevent potential catastrophes. Because mama needs to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE sometimes. And our kids need to learn how to act like human beings!
Eating out with small children:
1) Choose a family restaurant that's loud-ish
– (at least until your littles are old enough to be somewhat predictable) I'm not talking about a sports bar necessarily, but you know what I mean… a ‘moving' atmosphere that feels kid friendly. Things to look at, music playing, hustle and bustle. But mild enough that you can easily carry on a conversation as a family. Some examples of kid friendly restaurants are places that have kids menus and crayons! Like Perkins, Applebee’s, Texas Roadhouse, etc. … Better yet, if the weather is nice and there's outdoor seating, jump on that bandwagon!
2) Know what you're going to order in advance
– check out the menu online before leaving home… almost all restaurants have their menus online now! We try to choose a restaurant that brings food out immediately (like chips/salsa or bread sticks), or at least come well stocked with snacks to hold the children over until the food arrives.
3) Get there early
– if it's the evening meal (do you call it dinner or supper?) make it early. You'll beat the crowd, won't have to wait for a table, and will have less of an AUDIENCE. And you'll get home with plenty of time to carry out your normal bedtime routine without having to rush a fussy over-tired little one.
4) Bring lots of distractions
– card games, busy bag, quiet books, lacing cards, coloring, I spy, …as a last resort, we've been known to put a Netflix show on our phone with the volume very low. I have this phone case that has a kickstand to hold the phone up on it's side at a slight angle. I also found a list of games and apps for kids here. Also, bring your own sippy cups, bibs, wet wipes, sanetizer, and a change of clothes for each child.
5) Make a conscious decision not to care what other people think
– it's easy to feel like people are watching you and judging your every parenting decision. Or worse, judging you for how your KID is acting. WHO CARES. And I feel strongly that for the most part, people are sympathetic, and many are remembering ‘those days' with young kids and silently sending you vibes of encouragement.
6) Have low expectations and an escape plan
– knowing that kids are unpredictable and don't always act the way we think they should will get us far in life. No matter how prepared you are, Junior still might have an epic public meltdown. And in the event that one of our distraction ideas above doesn't help him/her snap out of it… stay calm, gather your things, and ask for the check.
We have a lot of family here in Iowa, and we meet up for meals often. Having to mess with splitting the bill is a pain, especially when you're trying to do math amidst the chaos of one child blowing spit-balls through a straw and the other is exercising their high-pitched pterodactyl scream. There's an app called SquareCash (download from iOS or Android) that makes it really easy to pay a bill quickly right on your smart phone. And there's a feature that's super convenient that allows you to split the bill by simply sending money electronically to another person… even if they don't have an account with SquareCash… simply send them money from your debit card through the app!. Sort of brilliant. And convenient!
7) BONUS TIP: tip your waiter extra
if you inevitably leave a mess. He/she deserves it.
I hope these tips give you the confidence to take your family out and HAVE FUN! Knowing that you’re prepared for anything will help you just relax and enjoy conversation with your littles. Even if you’re just talking about boogers! What tips would YOU add to my list?!?! Please comment below with your own strategies and favorite kid friendly restaurants!
P.S! If you're local to central Iowa or specifically the Marshalltown area, be sure to check out the Marshalltown Moms website that's full of great resources, giveaways, and helpful info for moms in this area!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Square, Inc. The opinions and text are all mine.