4 Tips to make Eating Out with kids Fun!
Eating out with our kids, toddler included, is our favourite family friendly activity because it helps us connect, share some laughs, and eat some great food.
We've discovered that some of the best places to eat with our kids are actually the most unlikely: breweries, wineries, and pubs. We still love eating at traditional restaurants as well, but surprisingly they aren't always the easiest!
Try these four simple steps and get your family out having fun in places your pre-parent self would have loved, not just the traditionally "kid friendly" restaurants!
Step One: Go Early
If we wait until dinner time we are often dealing with hangry kids. The whole situation feels like a set up for failure: waiting for a table, people everywhere, busy server, slammed kitchen, long waits. Yikes. All we are doing in this scenerio is trying to keep our kids from losing their cool. This usually entails a few walks (so we are not even all together!), and a lot of "don't touch that, and sit still!"
Hurry up and order, hurry up and eat, hurry up and get the heck out of there. Not fun. No wonder people hate eating out with kids!
Can you relate? We've probably all been in this situation, or at least seen it happening at a nearby table, and it is why so many of us think eating out with kids is a waste of money and just plain stressful.
We are here to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way. Going early makes a huge difference with our kids.
Go between 3pm-5:30pm when the restaurant is slow, so no lineups or long waits. Plus, no one is starving yet, and it’s nowhere near anyones bed time. It is a great low stakes opportunity to teach your kids how to behave in public, and you get to be out enjoying good food, and hopefully good company.
Since the restaurant is pretty empty, you'll have tons of space and won't need to worry too much if there are any "hiccups".
We know $&#@ happens from time to time and it can be stressful. We've been through it all: fussing, wiggling, spit up, blow out diapers (it happens!), but if you are there early then at least you won't have a huge audience. And these things don't seem so bad when you have a great meal being prepared for you!
Going early often has another perk, and that is Happy Hours! Go somewhere with a happy hour, and you get to eat for a fraction of the regular price just because you're there when the restaurant is slow. That's a big win!
Click here for even more reasons we love taking our kids to happy hours.
Step Two: Do the Research
Our mission is to make ALL kinds of restaurants and happy hours accessible to families, so we have gathered a ton of information and brought it all together for you. Along with every restaurant, pub, brewery or winery that we highlight on our site, you'll find a family friendly checklist. It has all the info you'll need to have a great time with your kids.
But there is one key piece of information that us parents need first:
Are kids allowed in? If kids are allowed, even if there is absolutely nothing for kids, then we are good because where there is a will there is a way!
Take Backyard Vineyards for example. Here is the information we have on them:
No change table, no high chairs, no booster seats, no kids colouring...nothing for kids! What the hek, right? Don't be discouraged just yet...
There is one tiny thing of importance in the bottom right corner...kids welcome!
Guys, Backyard Vineyards does not hate our kids! True, they don't have all the stuff that traditionally kid friendly restaurants provide, but they are actually really awesome to our kids and their vineyard is extremely family friendly. Sure they don't have a change table, a high chair, booster seats, or colouring, but they do have smiling faces, a great outdoor space, and they let you bring in your own food if you order a drink and sit up on the picnic lawn. How awesome is that?
The lesson here is that if a place lets us in the door with our kids, then we can deal with the rest.
Don't let a few bumps in the road stop your family from having a fantastic time at a really cool place.
The first time you go you may feel a bit nervous not knowing what kind of vibe you will pick up on from the staff, but that is what we are here for. Consider us your guinea pigs. As we try out different places we will share our honest opinions with you on our website, Instagram, and Facebook page. Let us know if there is a place you are curious about, and we'll be sure to go!
This is us at Backyard Vineyards. We brought our own high chair and enjoyed live music, a charcuterie board, and a bit of bubbly. When our son was done eating he got down and danced the afternoon away. What more can you ask for?
TIP: If you are in the Fraser Valley then check out our resource of restaurants, pubs, breweries, and wineries along with our Family Friendly Checklists. There are tons of great options!
Step Three: Choose somewhere with a happy extra
Some days it just isn't realistic to have your kids sit still for an hour and a half in a booth, but chances are good that things would be much more fun if they had some room to move around, or something entertaining to grab their attention. Lucky for us, lots of restaurants, pubs, breweries and wineries are offering more and more things to attract young families.
While we still love going out to eat at traditional places, we are very happy to have more options. For those days that you just know require a bit extra, here are some things to look for:
Tip: Use our site to help! We'll keep you up to date of any "happy extras" offered at the places we highlight.
Do you know of any more? Please share if you do!
Step Four: Be Prepared
Do you have a toddler or baby to think about? If you are local then we've got you covered! Simply use our charts to see what you need to bring in order to make it work. If you're not in the Fraser Valley then you just need to make some phone calls. Ask the questions so you can bring what you need, and have a great time at a "non-traditional" family friendly spot.
We have found that many places we love are places that most people wouldn't really think to take their kids.
It's easy to understand why parents of young kids may not feel welcome somewhere that doesn't have change tables or high chairs, but we urge you to let that go. You don't have to miss out, you just need to think outside the box (yes, the backseat of a car is a great change table!), and buy one great thing-a portable high chair.
We absolutely love our portable high chair because it means we can take our child anywhere we want to go (assuming minors are welcome), regardless of what they offer. Check out this picture! That's my son at Field House Brewing Co. having a fabulous time. All thanks to that incredible clip on chair.
Here is another example of a restaurant in the Fraser Valley. This one doesn't have a change table, and is on the fancier side, but we really wanted to give it a try. We decided that we weren't above changing our son in the car if need be, and so were able to enjoy it with our toddler. By going at happy hour when it was slower we were totally comfortable and had a great time. Plus look how family friendly that happy hour food is! Mac and cheese and corn on the cob, yum.
Below are some other things that can make life easier when eating out with a baby. Check it out, and see what works for you. Let us know if there is something we should add to our collection!
For babies 0-6 months:
For babies over 6 months:
Tip: simply add whatever you think will be helpful to your diaper bag so you have it ready to go.
Being a parent should not mean that you can't have amazing food and drinks at really cool places. Do not fall prey to all the negativity around eating out with kids. If we can do it, you can do it. With these four tips you and your family will enjoy eating out together, in places that you may not have thought you could go anymore. Remember to take control of the situation:
Do those four simple things and you will have nothing left to do but relax and connect with your family.
If you are local, then let us help! Use our Happy Hour Guides to choose the perfect place!
What are your best tips or tricks for eating out with your kids? Comment below, or let us know on Instagram or Facebook. We love new tricks!
Happy Parents BC is on a mission to make eating out accessible and affordable for young families. We believe that "family friendly fun" should be exciting and engaging for the entire family, and we are constantly looking for cool things to eat, drink, and do with our kids. Join us, and "drink in the moments" of family life in the Fraser Valley!