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Five Important Rules Or Ideas for Taking Children To Restaurants

Updated on March 20, 2012


In recent years, headlines have shouted that banning children from restaurants punishes good parents that have taught and reinforce good manners in their children. This may or may not be true, but it is an excuse for not dealing out constructive consequences for bad behaviors.

Some eating places allow atrocious behaviors and employ extra crew to clean up after every destroyed table that unsupervised toddlers have trashed, because of the fear of losing business. Some managers are afraid of confrontations, while others would rather build the family business and dispense with some of the adult trade. There may be enough eating places in America to continue this system.

Some restaurants, especially around the Eastern Seaboard have banned children under 6 years of age from more upscale establishments. Other restaurants have made special accommodations for youngsters by offering a children's menu and coloring placemats/crayons at only certain times of day. More casual dining places offer more child-friendly changes and McDonald's often has a playroom. In fact, one McDonald's, a franchise in Merridian Mississippi in the late 1970's - early 1980s even had a small outdoor swimming pool and lifeguard.

Here are some ideas for allowing children to enjoy restaurants as much as adults enjoy eating out. I learned them while babysitting children during college and while working as a restaurant manager.

1. Begin training children in manners at home as soon as they can talk and walk. Children do not raise themselves well, and while I think most parents do a good job, there is a smaller core of parents that have a child, lay him in a crib and ignore him, except maybe to stick a bottle in his mouth and change his diaper too late. When he walks and talks, he is ignored as he trashes the home, the neighbor's home, etc. along the lifespan.

One of my good memories is traveling by pickup truck to Florida when I was just one year old, sitting in a restaurant and enjoying a small, quick meal as it misted rain outside and a jukebox was playing some catchy tune. Still hungry when I was done eating, I received some fried potatoes from my father's plate. This brings me to another idea --

2. Think about some planning. When taking children under 6 to a restaurant, chose one in which your family can be served and on their way in 30 minutes. Dinner should probably happen before 6:30 PM as well, in order to avoid crankiness and irritation all around. Good manners already in place and a short time to sit still are more enjoyable for a child, family, and other diners than no manners and 90 minutes or two hours of havoc. Tell the children that the family is going into a restaurant for a quick meal and remind them of good behaviors they are to use (no loud voices, no getting out of your seat, etc.). Remind them of appropriate consequences and if they disobey, be sure to level those consequence, such as no TV or computer that night or foregoing a favorite treat they usually have.

Fancy restaurants with a lot of china and glass can be dangerous for children and opportunities for loud breakage.
Fancy restaurants with a lot of china and glass can be dangerous for children and opportunities for loud breakage. | Source
It might be a good idea to bring toddler-sized utensils to the restaurant.
It might be a good idea to bring toddler-sized utensils to the restaurant. | Source

3. Parents might take a picture book, a puzzle book, or coloring sheets and a small box of crayons (not the big 64-box) for their toddlers and Kindergartners to use at a restaurant. Sometimes, a child is happy only with a favorite small stuffed animal and that should by OK, too. One parent I knew taught her young daughter and young son to crochet and the kids worked on patchwork squares while waiting for their meals. Larger toys, loud toys, metal or plastic cars and such lead to toddlers "zooming" them over table tops and getting down on the floor and underfoot, which is dangerous and unnecessary.

Here's a funny story. Friends and I went out to eat lunch one day and we took their 6-foot tall 12-year-old son with us to a casual place where the waitresses knew us. He brought a zip-lock bag of small metal cars with him. Knowing the young man had a good sense of humor and was a good sport, when the waitress came and some chit chat passed, I said to the lady waiting table, "Oh, please meet my husband. And this is his bag of toys." We all laughed, and our young friend began to being a book with him from then on. I don't know if this would work on a 5-year-old. It might.

Waiters and waitress can fall over toddlers in the aisles and the children can be burned by hot foods.
Waiters and waitress can fall over toddlers in the aisles and the children can be burned by hot foods. | Source

4. Parents might point out to their children good examples of other children using good manners in a restaurant, without putting too fine a point on it. You might occasionally and discreetly ask your child what they think of the behaviors of children in other families at the tables. Your child might begin to point this out to you without being asked and hopefully in an "indoor voice." A loud proclamation might lead to a fistfight between tables of children up and down the aisles.

5. Bathroom time. It is nice if children go to the bathroom before leaving the house, but they can't always remember and sometimes the need hits them - and all of us - by surprise. I think it might be good to train your child to be assured that they can always tell you they need to "go", but discreetly, quietly, not announcing it to the entire room. One mom I saw was very good with this and I saw her take her child to the restroom and back in so short a time that other diners did not notice. However, young children can have bathroom and spilling accidents at the table and hopefully parents and waitstaff can clear it all up quickly without shaming the child.

Some Other Helps

Some other ideas include making sure the toddlers and Kindergartners are not feeling ill before going out to eat, are not wearing scratchy or pinching clothing, and similar.

A Coloring Page For You

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge. | Source



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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for the good ratings, KoffeeKlatchGals. I feel the same way about dining in a restaurant. You did a wonderful job with your own kids and I bet you've helped many others as well.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Wonderful advice Patty. I have 3 children and could take them anywhere when they were little. They knew how to behave, what was expected of them. To me it is uncomfortable to dine while someone's child is being so disruptive, you are unable to eanjoy your meal. Up and awesome.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I have enjoyed reading all of the new comments here and think that HubPages has some effective and awesome parents! All your families probably make a dream come true for restaurant staff when you go out.

      Pam - I'm sorry to hear about your neck surgery and hope you are rewarded with good health very soon.

    • BEAUTYBABE profile image


      6 years ago from QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA.

      Hi Patty,It seems like a long time since I have said hello. I apologise for this. However, I have been experiencing many health problems.I had neck surgery that went wrong and had to be abandoned. Now my neurosurgeon wants to have another go but from a different angle.

      I loved this hub because you have touched on five very significant points with regard to taking children out to restaurants.

      I can remember my mum always making sure we went to the bathroon before we went out, every time. Then there were times when my sisters and I were having a bit of a fight at the table and I remember these words tht were said often "why don't you behave like those children, you don't see them doing this do you? I think that most of us can relate to those days!!

      If parents of today follow these points and also the one about taking a book to read, I think that they are well on the way to having a peaceful meal.

      It worked for us .

      Hope to catch up soon Patty

      Love Pam xx

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great advice all around, Patti! You're right that one of the biggest steps is to start teaching appropriate table manners right away at home. I get frustrated when I see parents setting kids up to fail in restaurant settings by doing things like making them wait 30 minutes for a table, eating late, or not bringing anything for them to do. It's important to give them every opportunity for success.

    • sunbun143 profile image


      6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      It does help to order something you know they'll like to cut down on tantrums...and bring a backup snack if all else fails. This is what we have to provide at home at mealtimes anyway, since he's a picky eater. That said, we usually get attention because they're so well behaved also. Everytime this happens, I secretly think "if only you could see them at home" but outwardly smile and thank them and of course praise my little ones often.

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 

      6 years ago from West Coast

      Great hub! Voted up! Because my triplets were always well behaved in restaurants I had parents asking me how I managed. My tricks were as you said teaching them manners at home. I also either ordered a quick appetizer such as fries or something else easy so that they were occupied. And I brought something that they could do while waiting, no technology just coloring or reading books. I would also point out other children in the restaurant and let them know that certain behaviors were not appropriate.

    • plaid pages profile image

      plaid pages 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thanks, sunbun143. We didn't go to fancy restaurants with our children until they were ready for it.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      This is really great. I often feel bad for some parents because they don't realize how embarrassing it can be until they are in public.

      Etiquette starts at home and at an early age too. I was trained to sit properly at the dinner table and what to do at a dinner party or restaurant at an early age. If you use your own table to train your child it will become natural.

      Some Burger Kings in Jamaica have a play are for kids. I guess the etiquette rules don't apply to fast foods because it can be quite "uncomfortable" when children are around due to behaviour.

    • profile image

      Earth Angel 

      6 years ago

      Growing up we were expected to have the same good manners at home, at a friend's home or in a resturant ~ I think it helped us as young kids to not have different standards for different situations ~ good manners were demonstrated, expected and just a part of life! GREAT Hub dearest Patty! Blessings, Earth Angel!

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 

      6 years ago from Norway

      These are very good advise. I am having problems taking my 3 year old anywhere never mind the restaurant. The last outing was a disaster and now i know where i did wrong. I have no doubt that these ideas will definitely work.

    • sunbun143 profile image


      6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Plaid pages - I say that too! We shouldn't expect good behavior when our little ones are tired, hungry, etc. Patty - you're definitely right - long wait times are a no-no. And for fancy places or extra china, utensils, glasses....just politely ask them to take it away if they haven't already (uh no, my toddler will not be having the wine tonight!).

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have a three year old and it can be trying at times to say the least. I hate being "that parent" with a misbehaved child in a social outing. I will usually gauge his behavior throughout the day to determine if he can handle dining out. If he hasn't had proper rest or is having an off day, I will usually not choose to dine out. It is a great idea to bring activities that will help kids be entertained during the dining process, however I have a child who prefers to play with the condiments instead, I will clean up after his "creative" learning adventure, as all parents should try to do. This was an awesome article indeed! May I make a request, an article for retail stores?

      The electronic section IS NOT a daycare parents!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thank you for your thoughts about children. I think your mother is right.

    • plaid pages profile image

      plaid pages 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin

      Wonderful advice.

      My mother always told me to "set my kids up for success" and not put them in situations they couldn't handle.

      I think it's appropriate to your hub as well. Parents cannot expect children to sit for hours while they converse with other adults.

      Parents need to be empathetic when their children are trying to tell them they are SPENT.


      Voted UP and USEFUL.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Immediate attention looks like the best way. You are great parents!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Only once did I ever have any problems with my boys in a restaurant. They acted up and my husband escorted them promptly to the car. He gave them one of his lectures and after that they behaved. Excellent article!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Melovy - That is rght! - We need to have more full-family meals at home, and with extended family on holidays so kids can see god examples.

      Happyboomernurse - That is extremely interesting about time outs working with special needs individuals as well as other children. Parents like you are remarkable to me.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      Am thrilled you answered this question and wish you good luck on the contest.

      You've given many pointers about how advance planning by parents and parental attention to and handling of their children's behavior in restaurants, can go a long way toward warding off the types of behaviors that are distressing and potentially dangerous to restaurant staff, other dinners and even the parents themselves.

      When my own son was small I followed many of the suggestions you've given here and always had a back-up plan of what I would do if my child did become unruly in a restaurant- I, or my husband, would take him outside for a "time-out" until he settled down. Fortunately, we never had to do that but I witnessed another family member handle such situations with great tact and effectiveness. They had a special needs child who had many behavioral problems when he was young and at the first sign of an impending melt down the dad took the child outside. Within just a few minutes both would return and the rest of the meal usually went smoothly.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Some great suggestions. If kids are included in meals at home and taken to restaurants from an early age they absorb the appropriate way to behave.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      A+++ to you!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Excellent advice! I did not take my small children out to dinners unless it was a buffet! Lol. They can not sit still for so long - and should not be expected to when toddling. I went to nice places when I had a sitter.

      I began to teach my kids manners as soon as they lean red to talk...please, thank you, and your welcome were some of their first words and they used those phrases a lot. I have always gotten really nice compliments about my children's behavior and that is worth all the work:)

      Loved it!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I hope those that need to listen read this. Thanks Brian!

    • BRIAN SLATER profile image

      Brian Slater 

      6 years ago from England

      Great advice here Patty, I just hope the parents are listening, voted up :)


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