Do you eat out a lot as a family? We have gone through various stages of eating out with the boys. It started out being pretty simple when they were babies, turned into hell when they were toddlers and I have even been in a restaurant with the boys when my table companion actually removed herself from out table as one of the boys was being particularly obnoxious!
We are back to the stage of really enjoying eating out with the boys, they know what is expected of them behaviour wise and stick to it, however, I have learned lots of tricks to keeping them occupied over the years without the aid of electronics. I don’t have any issue with kids on tablets etc in restaurants before the food arrives, but we have a no tech at the table rule at home and stick to that when we eat out too.
10 Ways to keep kids occupied in restaurants
- Always take a pen and paper. There are lots of games that you can play with just those two things such as hangman, noughts and crosses and squares.
- Restaurants are getting much better at supplying kids activities pack. We recently tried out the new menu at Frankie and Bennys and their kids activity pack kept my boys busy till their food came, plus the pencils were great too.
- We also play family guessing games such as eye spy, A-Z (we often do animals or countries), “I’m thinking of” this game involves us guessing what animal the other is thinking off, but we can only ask yes or no questions.
- Colouring and activity pages are great for younger children.
- I always have dobble in my handbag. it is our favorite family compact game at the moment. When the boys were younger they loved dino dice.
- For kids that need to use their hands then having a small bag of pipe cleaners or play dough is great. This allows them to keep those fingers busy.
- Origami is great for older kids, you can use some of that paper that you have played games on. Mine love making finger puppets and then they can put on a show.
- Now my boys are getting bigger we LOVE mad libs. We often end up all sitting laughing out loud at the answers!
- A small bag of LEGO is a great way of keeping kids occupied and if your child particularly loves LEGO, then put together a portable LEGO travel kit and you could even add patten cards to it.
- A portable car play kit is a great idea for car mad kids.
The biggest thing for us when eating out with the boys is the service we get at the restaurant. I hate waiting at the table for an age, especially if I haven’t been informed before.
We were invited to review the new menus at Frankie and Benny’s and it was a real treat. We went the week before the boys went back to school and they loved it. My boys are 9 and 10 and Mini was delighted to find that there was a kids menu and a junior menu (up to age 11), which is perfect for slightly older kids. All the kids meals come with an optional side of vegetables, side salad or Heinz baked beans, plus refillable soft drinks.
We decided to grab a couple of starters between us and chose calamari and Brooklyn Bruschetta, which is topped with pulled pork. The starters were delicious and brought to the table really promptly even though the restaurant was really busy.
I chose chilli pepper calamari and it was delicious and packed quite a bite. It was perfect for me and Mini loved it, although it was too hot for Maxi. MadDad had a bacon and cheese burger. He said that it was really succulent and cooked to his taste (which the waitress asked). Maxi is currently going through a growth spurt and insisted on having ribs and chicken from the adult menu. We really thought that he wouldn’t manage it, but is seems we were wrong and there was no meat left on that plate and room in his dessert tummy (which is a thing apparently) for a brownie!
Mini was all set to have ice cream for dessert and then the table next to us got an ice cream candy shop and he had to have it (it is an extra £1.99), but as it was a treat we said yes. He LOVED it.
We had a great meal at Frankie and Benny’s. but more than that the service was great even though it was a busy Friday evening. Mini has already made up his mind that he wants a pizza party there for his next birthday!
Other tips for eating out with kids
- When the kids were younger we always got their meals to come out first.
- We would always get a jug of tap water for the table.
- Take a treat. Sometimes something small that the kids really wanted would make them sit for longer.
- Change your expectations. You can not expect a two year old to sit at a table for an hour.
- When the boys were smaller sometimes we would just go out for dessert of ice cream.
- Go early, we would often avoid the busy times b y going 30 minutes early or on a quiet day. Or even for lunch instead of dinner.
- Tale some snacks – yes I know this sounds odd when you are going out for a meal, but sometimes delays happen and my boys get cranky when they are hungry, so I always have something in my bag.