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Tips From A Former Waitress: Out To Eat With Kids

Throughout college and for the first few years that I lived in Hawaii I worked as a waitress. As most of you mamas know, dinning out with your kids can make for an interesting experience. I’ve seen it all; tantrums, thrown silverware, dumped bowls of spaghetti and even a full on brawl between a snappy fellow dinner and an overly stressed out dad.

Of course eating out with your kids isn’t always so hectic and should be something you all enjoy. Follow these waitress approved tricks below and you might find yourselves staying through dessert:

– Avoid eating out during nap or bedtimes. If your kids are overly tired they are more prone to meltdowns and this is no fun for you, them or your fellow patrons. If you find yourself in a pinch opt for take out or ask for a quieter section where your kid has some room to stretch out, relax or would make walking them easier.

– Use your dining out experience as an opportunity for your child to practice his/her manners and self sufficiency skills. Talk about the menu with your child and encourage them to place their own order and ask questions. There is nothing sweeter than hearing, “umm do you have chocolate milk” and a polite “Thank you”.

– Don’t be afraid to ask for your child’s order to be placed first or rushed. It’s completely standard for parents to order their child’s meal right off the bat with drink orders that way their food comes first and mom can help get them settled before her meal comes.

– Choose a restaurant that serves food your child actually likes. It’s great to encourage trying new foods but in the end you want your child to be fed and happy.

– Sometimes a little bribery does go a long way. Use dessert or a special beverage as an incentive for good behavior. This makes eating out something to look forward to and it should be! My parents used to bribe me with chocolate milk shakes and it worked!

– Bring along toys, coloring books and a bag of tricks to keep your child occupied while waiting for their food.

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I have my eye on the “Dwell Studio Animal Blocks” and fun “Monster” mats!

Remember any meal time with your family is a special time and is the perfect setting to model manners, social skills and healthy eating. So tell me, what other tips and tricks do you mamas have up your sleeves and what I REALLY want to know is your absolute WORST dining experience. Humor me in the comments section below…

* I was not compensated in any way for this review *



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  • Melinda

    Thank you very much for the tips. It’s funny that you mentioned asking to have the child’s meal brought out early. I have often thought about asking that but I didn’t want to offend any one or seem pushy. Thank you for the tips =)

    • Heather

      Glad you enjoyed them Melinda! Also, if you don’t seen something on the menu that you know your child would eat don’t be afraid to ask! With all the ingredients in the kitchen there is bound to be something that your child will eat and any decent restaurant should be happy to special order!

  • Amy via Facebook

    Good article. I never thought of ordering her meal ahead of ours, but it makes total sense to get her situated before my own meal comes. Plus it would prevent her filling up on bread or whatnot before dinner.

    • Heather

      The bread is my favorite part too….well the butter is actually!

  • Bex

    This is great! I have seen so many negative articles towards dining with children lately. I love to see tips to make it work for everyone.

    My daughter is only 14 months old, so we haven’t had too many terrible experiences to share yet. Just the standard whiney-ness that comes with the territory from time to time.

    I usually prefer to stick to “family” restaurants. Like Chili’s, Olive Garden, Friday’s etc. The kind of place that’s already loud to begin with, so tantrums go unnoticed. And we ALWAYS have snacks with us! She snacks while we wait for food. It keeps the tension down if the kitchen is backed up.

    • Heather

      Thanks Bex! I agree that there is so much negativity floating around regarding taking your kids out to eat and in my opinion this is silly. Eating out is a family thing and parents shouldn’t be afraid just prepared! In the end if you end of having a rough time a few apologizes and a generous tip never hurt :)

  • via Facebook

    Thanks Amy!

  • Jessica

    This is great, Heather. Love the tips!

  • Kaydee

    I used to waitress before my 6 year-old was born so I’ve seen a lot of misbehavior in that time, but also some very well mannered kids. The parent’s actions and reactions have a lot to do with their kids behavior, staying calm and setting a good example by practicing the manners you want your kids to exhibit goes a long way.

    We learned to order the kid’s food first from a waitress at Olive Garden, been trying to spread the word ever sense. I also make sure to bring with us a meal I know my 2 year-old will actually eat, just in case he doesn’t want what’s on the menu. I also use the special drink or dessert bribe when I see bad behavior emerging.

    We don’t eat out often so I don’t have any horror stories but there is one dinner that comes to mind. When my older son was just a month old we went to Reno for my cousin’s 21st birthday, he was having trouble with the pressure in his ears so he was a little crabby to start with. He cried all the way to the restaurant (10 minutes) so I nursed him in the car before we went in. Well needless to say he wasn’t impressed with all the noise and people trying to touch him, I had pumped earlier so I could bottle feed during dinner but warming a bottle in a busy restaurant was more difficult then I thought (running it under hot water in the restroom is the best way I’ve found). There was crying from him and some frustration from me, but my mom was there and jumped into action right away helping with anything I needed. All in all the dinner was interesting to say the least.

    • Heather

      Thanks for sharing Kaydee and you’re right…it’s all about how parents react to their kids behavior and setting a good example in the first place.

      I love your horror story and can SO relate! My son is 5 months old and I’m guilty of eating out a lot (we have tons of visitors out here in Hawaii). I try to always sit near an exit so when things get crazy I have an escape route.

      Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks.

      • Kaydee

        I don’t blame you eating out a lot in Hawaii because I was lucky enough to visit for 2 weeks and one of my favorite things was trying all the great restaurants! I’m glad you wrote this blog because it’s one of those things us mamas can forget to share with each other.

        Sitting near an exit is a fantastic idea, nothing more frustrating then being trapped in the middle of a restaurant with a fussy little one.

  • Kat

    Kat here with modern-twist
    I too have worked in restaurants throughout college,
    As a result not only am I a great tipper, I make my kids
    wait their own table and they have learned how to treat
    The wait staff with great respect. As parents we have the
    tough job of living by example, which Makes us strive
    to be our best. Thanks kids .. ( by the way I have 3 all under
    13..and they came up with the modern-twist kids mats
    Concept .. Best product development team in the world
    ..I would say and it’s free. But as we all know, they’re definetly
    Not cheap )

    • Heather

      Thanks for your comment Kat and major props to your kids for the genius idea of the mats! These are fantastic and I recommend them to any family dining out or looking for entertainment at the table!

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