I'm starting up a new series here on the blog about how we as a family do certain things. Oftentimes, we get asked for advice on how we travel, eat out, are able to attend an entire Mass service (sitting inside the church and not the mothers room), etc. & as much as we're flattered that we're asked, it does take some hard work and consistency. But these things mean that much to us that we don't mind the extra work.
I also like reading these types of posts on other blogs, because more often than not, I learn something new that is almost always helpful.
Today, I wanted to share with you how we are able to dine out so much. And so easily. We often get asked how we get Michael to behave so well and let me tell you. It's really all him. We eat out so much where he's at the point now where its like eating a meal at home. We're also not limited to just family friendly restaurants. We have taken Michael to Mastro's and other fine dining restaurants as well as hole in the wall joints, that we ourselves question if we should be eating there. Hah! So here's what has worked for us.
Plan ahead. We probably rely on yelp more than we should. But yelp has become so helpful for us when we plan on eating out. Typically, we like to read the reviews on what to order, which is easy for us to locate as they have a "menu" option to view. In this way, when we're seated at a restaurant, we're able to order from the get go. We also like to view pictures and look at the actual restaurant. Does it look kid friendly? Does it look high end, where we would need to pack some extra entertainment for our little guy? Do the serving sizes of each dish look shareable? We ask this because 99% of the time, I share my dish with Michael, making for an affordable meal. Restaurant meals are too big for me to eat in one sitting any way.
Grab a booth seat. This is something we found that worked best for Michael. Booth seating allows us the space for him to freely and comfortably enjoy dinner.
Make your own restaurant fun/survival bag. Fill it up with new stickers, crayons, coloring books, activities, just for your restaurant outings. What I found to be great restaurant bags are those activity packs at the Dollar Spot at Target.
Always ask for crayons & paper. Sometimes eating out is on a whim for us, so these definitely come in handy. Even at restaurants that you wouldn't think are "kid friendly." We once took Michael to a gastropub which didn't seem like they would have crayons. We decided to ask our server if they had any extra crayons and paper (thinking that the worst possible answer would be no) and to our surprise, she came back bearing them. She said they always kept them handy for families.
Play table games. Count the sugar packs. Play table football. Do some magic tricks. Some other ideas can be found here.
Make it an outing with friends or family. We know that when we eat out with others it can surely last a lot longer than when it's just the 3 of us. But with more people that means more people who help entertain Michael.
Leave the electronics for last. If we gave Michael our iPhone right from the moment we sat down, he would be tired of it by the time we placed our orders. We know the iPhone is a sure fire way to keep Michael occupied so we always say this for when we're actually eating. Sometimes, we don't even need to bring out the phone because he's having so much fun already.
Have fun and always keep in mind that you can take food to go. There have been times where we inhaled our meals because Michael just didn't want to be out. That's just the reality of raising a toddler. However, if we always thought this before going out, we'd never get out. Sometimes you just have to take that risk. Because having fun with your family is worth it.
I hope you enjoyed today's post and find all of these tips helpful. As a first time parent, that the best way to learn if something works or not is experience. Yes, you will get those looks and you will feel the pressure of eyes drilling on you. But to be honest, most of the people who are staring are usually people who don't have children with them. Our word of advice? They. don't. know. But who cares. Every parent and family goes through those tough times (and still do.) Enjoy yourselves and get out!
If you have any questions, any requests for future posts like this, or even want to share your dining out tips, please share. I'd love to hear from you.