Let’s eat out!

Learn tricks to make public meals with children pleasant.

Eating in a public restaurant with young children can sometimes be a challenge. When children get fussy during a meal, it is important for the parent or adults to stay calm. It is OK to excuse yourselves from the table to take a short walk with the child. Think of creative ways to engage the child in a quite manner. Having a toy or crayons can help if they are not interested in eating.

Michigan State University Extension suggests the following tips to help make your family restaurant visit go smoother:

  • Splitting an order is a good idea. Ask for an extra plate—you can always take leftovers home.
  • Pick a restaurant that is child friendly, as this will make you and your child more comfortable. Use a booster seat so your child can eat easier and be part of the group.
  • When you go out to eat, try to make it around the same time your regular meal occurs. The kids will tend to be less fussy. If it is at a later time, use snacks to hold them over.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask about food preparations. Most restaurants are accommodating with requests. This is probably not the best time to try new food. Let children eat their regular food and share with them any of your food that may be new to them (if they are interested).
  • Always let the child decide what they would like to eat. Give them two or three choices. Ask for a child’s size portion. Too much food on a plate can be overwhelming and invites play time. Side dishes and appetizers are good choices and come in small portions.
  • Try offering a slice of bread or crackers if your child is very hungry, as this can help in waiting for the meal.
  • Always involve your children in the table talk. This makes them feel important and worthwhile.
  • Enjoy eating out, but keep the meal short. Children need enough time to eat, but sitting patiently for a long time when out to eat is too much to expect.

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