9 Tips for Dining with Kids in Restaurants


Boy eating pizza in restaurant

Even though it’s a right of passage to have a nightmare dining experience with your kids, it’s better for everyone when children are well behaved at restaurants. Sometimes, it’s nothing short of a miracle to have a nice meal out with a young child in tow, but sometimes the following tips and products make it easier.

  1. Go to the right place. Check out our list of kid-friendly spots in the city to be sure you pick a place that will welcome your family.
  2. Include your child in the reservation headcount. Even if they are not eating, small humans and their corresponding gear take up a lot of space. The host or hostess needs to know they’re coming to seat you at a properly sized table.
  3. Travel smart. Most restaurants in San Francisco are small, making it hard to accommodate large strollers, so travel as lightly as possible. Baby carriers and car seat caddies for small babies are worth the investment. Umbrella strollers for older kids are a must.  Yes, these will take up extra room in your house or apartment, but they are worth it to help you explore the city as a family, and isn’t that why you live here in the first place?
  4. Consider bringing your own high chair. Hook on table chairs are great to attach to a breakfast bar or table at home and can also serve as high chairs in restaurants.
  5. Bring snacks. Does this tip even need explanation? When do you not have snacks with you, right?
  6. Bring entertainment. There are lot of opinions about letting kids play on devices during dinner, but you won’t find any judgment from us. If you prefer not to have the kids watch your iPhone at the table, then remember to bring a new or haven’t-seen-in-a-while toy. The novelty will keep them occupied for longer. Also, these disposable placemats are great, serving double duty as a sanitary spot for food and a place to color. They stick to the table and come with crayons, buying you some quiet time at any restaurant.
  7. Go at the right time.  This will depend on your child’s age and your routine, but the goal is to go out to eat before your kids get too hungry or cranky. It may mean you eat with the senior citizens, or it may mean your baby naps while you dine. However it works for you, timing really is everything.
  8. Go out to eat with other kids. This may sound like an exhausting thought, adding more children to the mix, but it works. Kids are fascinated and entertained by each other, so don’t be afraid to plan a family date with friends.
  9. Be Realistic. Sometimes one or more of your kids will be in a phase that makes sitting in a restaurant unbearable. That’s why Postmates and Caviar delivery services exist. Ride out the phase at home with takeout. Then, get back out there when the rough patch has passed. It’s not just you; it happens to all of us.

Got any more tips to add to the list? Leave a comment below!

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Rebecca is the former Managing Editor for both Mid-Peninsula Moms Blog and San Francisco Moms Blog. She and her husband moved to San Francisco from the East Coast in 2008 and love raising their two children in the city. Rebecca worked for two Fortune 500 companies in a variety of HR roles before surprising everyone, including herself, and leaving her job to stay home with her kids. She's written for a variety of online parenting publications including Scary Mommy, Motherly, and YourTango, but promises that she can talk about non-parenting stuff in real life. Follow her on social media at @rlang165 and on BeckyRebecca.com.


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