It wasn't always easy! Over the years, I learned plenty-- some lessons the hard way-- like don't let them run around in stocking feet. Boy #3, Cole, was two when he was running back and forth from the play space at a fast food restaurant to the chicken nuggets at the table when he slipped, fell, and smashed his face into the table edge. Plenty of tears, blood, and money (medical and dental bills!) later, I realized that things happen fast-- it's best to pay attention and be proactive!
Here are a few tips for keeping kids safely entertained while dining out.
-Have fun. They grow up-- fast! Enjoy the time you get to spend with them. Fast forward a few years and you'll get to have all the quiet dinners you want.
-Order ahead, if you're venturing out of the fast food arena. Most places will allow you to place your eat-in order online or over the phone, so your food is ready to eat when you get there. Most menus are online if you need to decide what to order.
-Distract them. Kids get bored easily. I see plenty on iPads and phones, but there are old school, low tech ways to entertain kids. A notebook and a pack of crayons are not only entertaining, but never run out of batteries or break if tossed on the floor.
-Interact with them. The habits you make now will last a lifetime. Talk to them when they're two and they will talk to you when they're teens. I hate to see parents totally focused on their cell phones while their kids are doing a Houdini level escape from a high chair.
-Play with them. Eye Spy and What Animal Am I...great ways to interact in crowded spaces. In Eye Spy, the spotter picks something in eyesight and tells the group the color of the item and everyone guesses until they spot the item. What Animal Am I? One person in the group thinks of an animal and then the group gets to ask questions until they narrow it down to identify the animal.
-Move around. Take a walk to the bathroom for hand washing. Washing hands before dinner not only uses up some of the wait time, it's a great way to cut down on illness.
-Reward them. Let kids know when they are doing the right thing. Table manners don't happen by instinct. When they sit in their seats and aren't screaming or throwing food, tell them what good boys or girls they are being.
-Finally...know their limits. Don't wait until they are starved or fatigued to head out for a leisurely dinner. They're little. Imagine a night out to eat is the equivalent to you going for a jog. Imagine how excited and lovely you'd act if someone made you go for a jog after a long day-- I bet you'd be a crab too.