Tips on dinners out with young kids

One of the things I love about being on vacation with my daughters is going out each night for a family dinner.  Unfortunately the meals are not all plain sailing.  Our first night on our Colorado road trip and my 21 mth old lost the plot, screaming the place down and drinking so much orange juice she ended up being sick all over herself.  Let’s chalk that one up to jetlag.  However, here are my rules to make for an easier dinner out:

  • It’s all in the timing.  We like to eat out around 7.30/8pm.  My 4 year old is pretty flexible but to accommodate my 21 mth old, I give her a later snooze e.g. 1-3pm that will allow her to push on through to a later dinner.  I also let them have a snack around 5-6pm.
  • Pick a restaurant you’ll feel comfortable in.  What I love about the US is that most restaurants are family friendly, offering kids menus, booster seats and no disapproving looks.
  • As soon as you sit your toddler down, remove everything within the radius of their radius!  Even a salt cellar is a weapon in a toddler’s fight against a peaceful mealtime.
  • Cast a quick eye over the kids menu as soon as it’s handed to you and order their meals asap.  If they’re hungry and moaning, ask for a bread basket (or in this instance the waiter brought them crisps!)
    Crisps as starter
  • Request plastic cutlery and plastic drinking cups with a lid/straw.  Even the fanciest of restaurants might provide you with that plastic plate!
  • Come armed with some goodies.  Not all restaurants have crayons and colouring so bring your own.  We were given the coolest ‘keep your kids quiet’ toys at the Outlaw in Ouray – Wikki Stix! These are sticky sticks that you can mould together to create different shapes.  I made sure to pocket some for my next few meals.
    Plastic cup and wikki stix
  • I often see kids being kept quiet with iPads and iPhones.  I have absolutely nothing against them but sadly it does not work for us.  My youngest has turned into a monster and now demands the iPad as soon as she sits down for dinner and does not stop moaning.  For this reason we’ve had to put a ban on them and now rely on the old fashioned activities!
  • Similarly to my tip on the plane, don’t let your kids know it’s ok to get up and run around.  Once they’ve tasted freedom, they’ll never stay seated.  I try to make my kids sit for the duration of our dinner.  The only time they’re allowed up is if there’s a band/pianist etc and they can go and dance.  Then the band becomes my babysitter and I can eat my dinner in peace!

Would love to hear your tips on keeping young kids contented and quiet at dinner!


  1. Andrea, Passports And Pushchairs

    We never allow ipads/iphones at dinner either. I have 2 bags in my purse that hold a notepad and crayons, and each of my kids gets one as soon as we sit down. They look coloring and it passes the time. We also order their food before we order ours.

  2. Katja

    Sticker books are a winner with our kids and like Andrea we tend to order food for the kids first.

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