Raising Kids is Tough : Dining Out

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This month is dedicated to Eating Battles. This is the second week of your questions being answered (last week was food battles at the dinner table).

These hands on experts have given their professional and personal answers to help lessen your eating battles that you submitted.

The Hands On Experts:

That’s right. We added Sarah of Füdoo Boards on as a full-time expert, and sponsor, for the entire RKIT series! She doesn’t just know food – she knows how to live a healthy lifestyle – their slogan: Eat! Drink! Move! Think! (more than just food).

I’m also super excited that this week in the series all four experts are sharing an answer. And it happens to be to MY eating question (they didn’t know who asked the questions)! Yay! But also because it introduces the last expert, Erin of The Intentional Parent!

Your Eating Battles:

Dinner Table Battles : How do you deal with food battles at the dinner table

  • Going Out to Eat : What tips and advice can you give to make eating out go more smoothly with a preschooler and a baby?
  • Picky Eaters :
    • My Toddler (almost 2) will not eat any meat he is getting protein at the moment through lentils, cheeses, fish and egg. At each meal we offer meat, minced, sliced, roasted etc… but it is either thrown to the dog, put in his mouth chewed and then spat out or ignored completely. Is this normal behavior? Or any ideas on getting him to eat meat?
    •  My youngest refuses to eat cheese or anything with cheese on it or try anything with cheese on it. I think I could deal with this if I knew WHY.  It happened about a year ago and he hasn’t touched anything with cheese since.
  • Healthy Snacks :I want to give my son a healthy snack after his nap, but don’t want to turn it into meal. What is a good thing to give him?

(Do you have a question that wasn’t listed? Submit your Raising Kids is Tough questions!)

The experts each chose a couple questions to give their input on, some questions have answers from multiple experts, while others may only have one expert’s advice.
Eating Battles, week 2:

What tips and advice can you give to make eating out go more smoothly with a preschooler and a baby? asked by Me!

This week’s advice and helpful tips come from all four experts:


Parenting Expert (Erin from The Intentional Parent) :

  1. Choose your restaurant wisely. If your kids are young, or new to eating out, take them somewhere that is family friendly.Here are some tips for a smoother experience eating out:As the mom of two very, shall I say…  active children who are 14 months apart, I can quite vividly recall breaking out in a cold sweat at the thought of going to a restaurant. With a little planning though, it really isn’t too bad, and really can be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
  2. Consider the time of day you are going out to eat. If you go at a time when your children are hungry or tired, things are likely to not go well. Also bare in mind that restaurants have busy times. If you go out in the middle of the dinner rush, you are likely to deal with a long wait for your food, an inattentive server, and an overall chaotic atmosphere (I don’t know about you, but my kids never did well with that!)
  3. Diversion. Bring a few toys with you such as matchbox cars or crayons and paper.  Small snacks such as goldfish or cheerios also work well to diffuse potential boredom.
  4. Ask your server to bring the children’s meals out as soon as they are ready, or with the appetizers. This will allow you to assist the kids in eating and then enjoy your own food while they are hopefully fed and content. Also for some reason, the kids meals never seem to take as long to prepare.
  5. Set expectations. Go over expectations ahead of time with your preschooler. Talk about how to act in a restaurant.  Have your child come up with a few rules (then it feels more interactive and less like lecturing!)

And finally, check your own expectations. Kids are going to act like kids, and it’s okay. All of us parents have been there. You probably wont have a perfectly peaceful dining experience for a while, but it will get a little bit better each time you do it.

— Erin, The Intentional Parent

Teaching Expert (Deborah from Teach Preschool) :

  • One of the biggest things that parents need to keep in mind when going out to eat is timing. Steer away from eating out during naptime or bedtime but if you have to go out during these times, keep in mind that a tired child can really struggle to respond positively in social circumstances.
  • Bring something for the child to do as an alternative to eating. If your child is not hungry or is too distracted to eat, then have something simple, quiet, and inviting that you can pull out for the child to do, like a busy book. Save the activity for only special occasions like going out to dinner so your child will find the activity interesting.
  • Bring a simple snack food item just in case your child is done eating dinner but you are not or just in case your child ends up not liking what you ordered for dinner. Something simple like a baggy with cheerios or raisins. Keep in mind that eating out for dinner is usually more of an adult experience so anthing you can do to help make this a better experience for a young child may be well worth the effort.

— Deborah, Teach Preschool

Mom Expert (Jill from A Mom with a Lesson Plan) :Remember how I said our kids bounce in their seats? Going out to eat is um…a challenge. Did I say challenge I meant to say adventure. A few months ago I made a Waiting Bag to bring with us on trips out to dinner. It has made all the difference. We are once again enjoying eating out! I made two versions of the Waiting Bag (one sewn and one no sew). I wanted the bag to be easy to carry so I made sure it would fit in my purse (and glove box). Inside the bag there are 4 activities. They are all quiet, engaging and encourage creativity. You can see them all in my WAITING lesson plan.Tips (For eating out):

  • If at all possible minimize the time your kids feel like they are waiting. Let your little ones run around outside while you wait for a table. Order a side of fruit as an appetizer while you wait for the food to arrive.
  • Be prepared with a waiting bag or print out a couple of coloring sheets to “surprise” your kids.
  • Remember that they are there for the night out too, not just a tag along. Include them in the conversation and laughter.

— Jill, A Mom with a Lesson Plan

Food Expert (Sarah from Füdoo Boards) :I remember when my children were this age. Even though I enjoyed date night meals a little more, I didn’t mind eating out with the kids, as long as we could pick the restaurant and knew we could make a quick exit if needed. Hopefully some of these tips will help you.

  1. Keep your restaurant list family friendly. Forget the restaurants that have long wait times, are crowded, and are quiet. Let’s face it, there are restaurants that are meant for family night out and then some that are for date night out.
  2. Time your meal with baby’s nursing schedule. Your optimal restaurant meal might be with a baby who just nursed and is sleeping quietly in her car seat. Timing is everything with this one.
  3. Have snacks with you for while you wait for the food. Your toddler is going to be hungry when you get there, and we know how patient they can be. Bring easy snacks like cheerios to keep your toddlers hands and mouth busy while waiting. Bring your baby food also.  You may not be ordering them a meal at all.
  4. Order sides for the little one. Young children don’t really need the full meal. You may end up sharing some of your food anyway, so pick a couple small sides for your toddler like cut fruit, rolls, pasta salad, and the cooked veggie of the day.
  5. Can you get a seat outside? It’s summer and if it’s not too hot pick a restaurant that has outside seating. It’s less shut in and there is a lot to see out there. Teach your child what dining “al fresco” means.
  6. Skip dessert. Go for an after dinner walk through a mall or nearby park instead.  Have coffee while you walk. Want dessert, choose something and bring it home to eat slowly once kids are asleep.
  7. Settle the bill early. When you know you won’t be having anything else to eat, have your partner take care of the bill. Now you can relax and talk with the rest of the time you have at the table, and you can make a quick getaway when your time is up. Don’t forget a nice tip for your waitress – she has to work a little bit harder for families with small children.
  8. Really want to get out but you know it won’t be easy? Grab a blanket, make some simple sandwiches and snacks and go for a picnic at a park. Let the kids play and you eat. No pressure!

— Sarah, Fudoo Boards

These four experts are very generous for giving their time to answer these questions on hands on : as we grow. Please check out their websites. Thank you experts for your extensive knowledge!

Next Monday, I’m combining two questions since they’re very similar. Both questions about picky eaters, anti-cheese and anti-meat eaters. Do you have a picky eater? You’ll want to read the experts’ advice!

And thank you to all the readers who have submitted questions! Head over and submit your question – next month’s topic will be all about those unwanted behaviors that probably embarrass you and how to nix them, or maybe they’re just normal! (All topics are welcome, we’ll get to your question in the future!)

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  1. Mama Pea Pod says

    All great advice! We actually eat out fairly often with our baby and preschooler, and though it doesn't always go perfectly smoothly (i.e., on holidays when they are eating out for every meal), it's not usually a big problem. Sarah's tip about skipping dessert and coffee is very important, though!

    Another tip is to go to restaurants that have buffet-style meals, as there isn't usually any wait time there and if they don't like something you can easily get them something else. One family favourite of ours is one of those Japanese restaurants with the conveyor belt of tiny dishes: No waiting, easy to get something different, and tiny portions – pefect for kids!

  2. Jackie H. says

    Wow, those are great tips. We've had some meltdowns during eating out times… generally when we are with large groups. I think it's harder to accomodate your kid when you are with a lot of people. I like the ideas of bringing extra things and not even expecting your child to eat– I think the tricky part is communicating to the grandparents that your child might not eat and it's ok. One set of grandparents of my kids want to fight with my kids about eating. I could care less if they eat when we go out. really like all the diff. viewpoints here too.

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