Family Friendly Restaurants
Going out to dinner with the family is a fun and enjoyable way to spend time with those you love while taking a break from the cooking and cleaning involved in making meals at home. In my family we consider going out to dinner a treat as we don't go out very often. When we do go out we want a comfortable and enjoyable time to spend eating a great meal with each other. My children are no longer in high chairs or booster seats but there are still some ideas that I carry with me today to make sure our dinner out is enjoyable and as stress free as possible.
Pick the Right Restaurant
Not every restaurant is a family friendly restaurant. That's fine, I'm glad there are restaurants that my husband and I can go out to on our "date night" and not be surrounded by loud children. The last place I want to go on a "date night" is a family friendly restaurant. Check with the restaurant, if they have a kids menu, they are usually family friendly. If there is no kids menu, don't go with the kiddos, save that restaurant for a special night out without the kids. You and the other patrons will be glad you did.
Pick the Right Time to Go Out
With small children it is important to realize that waiting for a table at a restaurant is no fun. Adults don't like to wait and a toddler just thinks every minute that goes by is an eternity. Before you go out think about the restaurant and the busy times that are usually around 7 pm to 8 pm, consider going at an earlier time or going to a less crowded restaurant. If you must go during the busy time, like a family gathering; bring something with you that will keep them occupied. Bring their favorite toy. Small games are nice to play as long as they don't take up too much space. I even give in and let my kids play on my phone or other electronic device. This is their time too, so I give in a let them have the treat of playing a video game while waiting in the lobby. But once we sit at a table the electronics go up!!! So if the kids are not mature enough to put the electronics up once we are seated, then I wouldn't even let them see or know of the electronic devices. I've been known to play "I spy" while waiting to be seated. But most importantly we try to avoid going to a restaurant at a busy time with hungry kids, it is usually a disaster waiting to happen.
Bring Snacks and Toys
I know going to a restaurant you think you are going to eat, why bring food for the little ones. Well, they want to eat whenever they are hungry and between the wait time at the front of the restaurant and the wait time for the food to finally come to the table they will want to eat. Bring something small that doesn't require refrigeration like crackers or small cereal. Don't let them fill up, just give them enough to satisfy them, but remember they really don't care about the restaurant food, they just enjoy being with their family and playing with you. I always packed small cars and coloring books. I would keep little coloring pages and a small pack of colors in my purse. Many restaurants offer coloring pages and colors with their kids meals, so make sure to ask if they have pages. Depending on their age, I would let my pre-school aged kids help me pack a small bag and let them pick out what they wanted to bring. Nothing too big, as we all still needed a place to eat our dinner, but when they were involved with choosing the items they would look forward to playing with them.
Children can't read your mind. Yes the older they become the better their manners will become. But we are not born with manners, so we can't expect our children to know how to behave unless we teach them. Start out slow, and tell them how you expect them to behave, set consequences. But most importantly remember this is an evening out with family. Let everyone even the littlest ones enjoy this time together. If they make a mess, clean it up and make sure to tip your waitress really well.
High Chairs and infant kradles are a must when taking small children out to dinner. As a parent we all want a clean, sanitized place for our children to eat. There is a restaurant in the small town that I live in that cleans the high chairs from top to bottom, then adds a coloring book and crayons to the tray then wraps the tray in plastic to make sure the customer knows the tray is clean. I love this and when I brought my young children to eat, this extra step the restaurant took made me feel that my children were welcome and we frequented this restaurant many times, it was even a higher price seafood restaurant, but I was willing to pay more just to have an evening out with my family that was stress-free and fun.
Koala Kare, known for their commercial baby changing stations and high chairs has come out with the infant seat kradle. Boy I wish more restaurants would carry this kradle. It is for use with an infant carrier, the kind that fit in the car and you carry everywhere. Most restaurants just turn a high chair upside down and place the infant carrier on an upside down high chair. EEEEWWWW - that is so gross. who wants to see the bottom of a high chair, much less put their baby on the bottom legs of a used high chair, no way.... This infant seat kradle offers a safe and hygienic place to put an infant seat right at the table. They fold up nice and neat and take up way less space than a high chair. Can I say this again, "I wish more restaurants would carry these!!!"
The KB327 booster is a modern design that easily stacks and is easy to clean. This a nice looking booster seat that is perfect for toddlers and gives them a place at the table with mom and dad.
The KB120 is a set of 10 booster buddies with a stand. These are great for restaurants and movie theaters as they offer a cup holder and a snack holder for the kids to put their own drinks. These are easy to clean and store great on a stand.
The KB318 by Koala is a practical place for infants and children to sit at a restaurant table. These are easy to clean and made of beautiful hardwood. The 3" castors made it easy to move these chairs around and they offer a wide, stable base. The chairs nest to easily store together.
Baby Changing Stations
Any restaurant that is family friendly and offers a kids menu MUST offer a baby changing station! Preferably in both the men's and women's restrooms. If the restaurant wants families to feel comfortable there must be a safe and clean place to change their children. There are several different types of changing tables, the vertical design is great for smaller spaces and the KB200 is one of the most popular changing tables on the market.