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Taking the Adorables to Restaurants…

March 11, 2010

The Running Man and I took our adorables to a swanky dinner and proceeded to hold our breaths during the entire the dinner. Luckily on this occasion, they stunned us with their excellent behavior.

We’ve had another experience where our youngest adorable spilled my Diet Coke all over me in a very crowded restaurant, and proceeded to wail at the top of his lungs, “Doooonnnn’tttt huuurrrrrttttt mmmmeeee, Mommmmyyyy.”  We whisked him out of there before management could call Child Services and have us incarcerated.  Fun times.

Did you quake with fear when you read the title?  Or, are you at ease when you venture out to eat?

Restaurants can be tricky with young adorables, but if you’re prepared and your adorables know what you expect from them, eating out can be a pleasure.

I asked some brilliant moms for their advice and they had some great ideas…

Bring a Go-Bag:

Leigh Shulman plans for her 5-year-old daughter, “I always carry paper and colored markers, little dolls and other toys in my bag. But we’ve also learned to make do with the things we find if I forget. We use sugar packets for games. We’ll bring leaves, sticks or other things Lila has collected along the way. Sometimes, she brings her Leapster.”

Ameena Din always brings, “A book for her to read; A toy – usually a magnetic paper doll set that I don’t let her play with unless we are at a restaurant; A treat – if she is good through dinner than she gets to have the treat or a restaurant dessert.”

For our family, it’s all about stickers.  I buy big books of stickers from Costco and tear out pages (they’re really heavy to carry around the full book) for my adorable’s go-bags.  A bunch of stickers, a simple piece of paper, and crayons can last a long time for us.  Well, until the Diet Coke gets spilled.


Marcia Noyes says, “Take 4 knives and cross them over into a tic-tac-toe pattern.  When use pink and white sugars to play tic-tac-toe.  A winner every time!”

Barbilee Hemmings offers a mother lode of game ideas:

1. WHERE’S MY FOOD? (With poker chips). They get 1 chip for every 5 minutes we wait. I set a timer (the timer and the poker chips are available at dollar stores) and each time it rings they give me a chip and we change activities.

2. 20 Questions. Quick rules: adorables can only ask yes or no questions to guess type of animal, place, person you know, etc.

3. Play the color game, letter game or number game. Cut up pieces of colored paper, make small pieces of the numbers 0-9 and the letters A-Z. You can put them in different bags or all in the same one. Everyone picks one. When they find it they put their piece of paper in their own bag and pick another one. When they are all gone, you all blow kisses to the winner the person who has the most pieces of paper. **For younger kids, you can adapt: She picks a color and she finds 2 people/things wearing that color. For number, you help her count, for letter have her find the letter in one of her books.

4. Treasure Bottle – Great for all ages – I use a plastic food container with a really tight lid for this one (lg clear soda bottles work well). Fill it no more than 2/3 full with uncooked rice or birdseed. Then put in about 20-25 small objects (safety pin, plastic bugs, button, M&M, nut, bolt, paper clip, penny, bead, piece of macaroni, tiny lego, and other misc. toy pieces or stuff that is probably rolling around in your kitchen junk drawer.) Keep a list of the items and write down the number of items on the outside of the bottle. Have them “find the __________” while they are waiting.

5. I Spy – an oldie but a goodie.

6. The rhyming game. Find a one or two syllable object and ask your kids to think of words that rhyme with it

7. Storybook–Begin with “Once Upon a Time…” and have everyone take turns adding something to the story. The characters and plot can go in very interesting directions. This game really lets your child’s creative juices flow!

Restaurant and Eating Ideas:

Kim Frye offers, “When my boys were younger (they are now 9 and 12), my motto was always ‘in and out in an hour.’ I kept a list of local restaurants that I knew even with the wait and the service that we could be in and out of there in 1 hour which was the length of time I could maintain the boys.”

Marcia Noyes, whose children are now grown, adds: “When we went to a restaurant, we’d always scout out the round table at the back of the restaurant. When the kids finished, which always seemed to be long before we did, we’d let them play behind the table in front of the walls. They would play with toys we brought on the floor, and not bother anyone.”

Dina Rose, PhD, and food sociologist offers the following insights (She also writes It’s Not About

1) Expose your children to eating out when they’re young and still willing to try new foods. Go for the broadest range of foods you can imagine. No cuisine is off limits. Even the hottest Indian food can be toned down with a bowl of yogurt. This will prime them for outings as they get older (and pickier).

2) Don’t introduce your children to the children’s menu until they ask for it. Not only does the children’s menu typically offer the unhealthiest food on the menu, it defeats the purpose of eating out. Chicken nuggets, french fries, spaghetti and hamburgers are the kinds of foods your children already eat. When your kids are old enough to know about their menu, only let them eat off of it occasionally. When they ask why, tell them there’s better food to be had.

3) Instead of ordering a separate meal for your children, build a children’s meal from your own plate. This will expose your kids to the widest range of foods, and if all else fails, there’s always the garnish. Tomatoes anyone?

4) When your children are old enough to have separate meals, encourage them to order something new while you and your spouse order the safe choices. Then trade if your kids don’t like their meals.

5) Make sure there are vegetables on the table. Most restaurants hide the veggies in the side dish section of the menu which is a shame because veggies made restaurant-style (lots of butter, salt and other flavorings), are particularly palatable to kids and are a great way to reinforce how yummy vegetables are. Plus, keeping vegetables on the table, even when you’re out, will make it easier to get your kids to eat them at home.

Dina also offers this mantra, “Remember, the key to eating right – and to eating out – is exposure, exposure, exposure. The more your kids do it, see it, and eat it, the easier things will be.”

Travel Kiddy(especially this miniKiddy size) is perfect for ready-to-go!  See the full line at

What works for you?  What do you carry in your Go-Bag?

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  1. Sarah

      on March 11, 2010 10:05 am

    I have two boys and one of them is more heavily into wheels than the other- tractors, cars, trucks- anything that rolls! I take a piece of paper and a crayon from his brother’s stash (the other prefers to draw) and draw a winding road and a little scenery and my little driver can motor around that piece of paper for twenty minutes!


  2. Heidi Farmer

      on March 11, 2010 2:53 pm

    Love this idea! Why hadn’t I ever thought of that?!?


  3. Jenny Hout

      on March 11, 2010 3:16 pm

    We have been blessed with a good restaurant adorable, though she does have her moments. If we try to eat out a fancy meal and need to bring her along, we have been known to give a tip at the beginning of the meal so the waiter/waitress keeps things moving for us, keeps glasses filled, crackers coming etc. It’s amazing how fast the meal goes with great service!


  4. Whitney Trujillo

      on March 11, 2010 7:43 pm

    Great ideas! We have some serious work to do with our son!


  5. Leigh Shulman

      on March 11, 2010 9:13 pm

    What a fantastic collection of ideas. Thank you for including mine.

    As for the treasure bottle, if you see a curly haired adult female sitting in a restaurant shaking a container with rice and toys, that will probably be me.

    Thanks for this, Heidi. Great ideas, great article!


  6. Barbilee

      on March 12, 2010 10:21 am

    I added some new ideas to my lists! Thanks ladies!
    PS Leigh – I have my own bottle too!


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