How to survive a restaurant trip with the kids
With prior preparation and a little cunning, there’s no need for parents to shy away from eating out in public.
With their ability to cover everything in food, smash every available object within reach, and make enough noise to set off car alarms, children don’t immediately seem the ideal creatures to take to a restaurant.  But, with prior preparation and a little cunning, there’s no need for parents to shy away from eating out in public.


Children don’t always like surprises, so make sure you prepare your child for their meal out. Explain to them how a restaurant works, what they might eat, and how the food is prepared and served. Try and build an image that is both accurate and appealing. Ask your child whether going out to eat is something they might like to do – having their informed consent is half the battle.


Eating out at 8pm isn’t really an option when children are involved. As sleep-time approaches, tempers fray and behaviour can become a little frenzied – a combination that doesn’t make for a comfortable dining experience.

Instead, time meals out to coincide with children’s established eating times. It might feel a little unnatural to dine at 5pm, but if that’s what keeps the kids happy, then that’s what has to happen. Booking meals at off-peak times also ensures that families don’t get glared at by other diners who might be seeking quiet intimacy.


By their nature, restaurants involve periods of waiting. Children, by their nature, don’t like waiting. Your job as a parent is to ensure your children don’t get bored. Bringing a sack full of toys isn’t really appropriate, but having a book or simple game handy can work wonders for short-term entertainment.

Choosing a restaurant

It should go without saying that choosing an established family-friendly restaurant is a good idea. While it might be appealing to instruct the kids in the ways of fine dining, the minute a tantrum starts brewing, the experience can quickly become nightmarish.

Family-friendly restaurants
will be kitted out with useful things like colouring books and games to play while kids wait for their meal. The staff will be used to dealing with bored/tired/hungry kids and the meals will be designed to appeal to younger palettes.

The downside of these places is that they can feel a bit like a free-for-all, with kids allowed to run riot. As a compromise, try and find restaurants that are welcoming to kids, but not designed especially with kids in mind. Ideas include Wagamama, Pizza Express, Belgo’s and Carluccio’s – try and find restaurant coupons to take the sting out of the price. As a general rule, family-run Italian restaurants can also be a good option – call in advance and ask whether they cater for children.

Staying sane
While it’s good to introduce children to the experience of eating out, it’s equally important that parents enjoy themselves. Sometimes, the only way to do this is to leave the kids at home (preferably with a babysitter) and indulge in an intimate meal just for two. If price is an issue, seek out some guilt-reducing restaurant coupons.

Read Parent24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Everything from parties to pre-schools in your area.

Jobs - Find your dream job

Reporting Accountant

Cape Town
Network Finance Professional / Prudential
R310 000.00 - R360 000.00 Per Year

Java Developer

Network IT Recruitment
R450 000.00 - R500 000.00 Per Month

Financial Manager

Communicate Recruitment: Finance 3
R750 000.00 - R800 000.00 Per Month

Property - Find a new home