Dining Out in Peace
• Set the ground rules. Before entering a restaurant, remind kids that
you are going to a special place and that a few key rules apply, such
as inside voices and good manners.
• Bring entertainment . Crayons, markers, paper, stickers, etc. will give
your children something to do while awaiting their food. If the kids
are old enough, bring postcards for them to write.
• Try word games. “I Spy” is a good one. Another word game involves
one person naming something in a category, such as food. The next
person names a word in the same category that starts with the last
letter of the previous word. (For example: orange, eggplant, tomato,
• Remember the value of conversation. Talk with your kids about
what you did during the day or what you have planned for the next
one. That will help pass the time and encourage restaurant-appro-
• Decide who's “on duty.” Decide ahead of time which adult will have
to interrupt his or her meal, should a child act up. Take turns at each
• Use time-outs. If your normally polite child acts up, immediately and
quietly take him or her outside. This will avoid embarrassment, and
will be a lesson to the child. You shouldn't have to do this more than
a few times before your child gets the message.
• Make exceptions. Your child may normally drink milk with dinner.
Permit him or her to have a Shirley Temple (7Up and grenadine with
a cherry). This will make dinner out seem special.
• Use rewards and bribery. Tell kids that if they behave well and eat
their dinner, they'll get a bowl of vanilla ice cream for dessert.
• Be flexible. If the kids are tired, skip the appetizers or order food
that is quick to prepare. If they've reached their limit, have one par-
ent take them outside to stretch their legs or hunt down a dessert
spot while the other parent pays the bill.
• Slow down. Before dinner, take them back to the hotel for a nap to
rest up or to a playground to let loose some pent-up energy.
• Eat early. If you plan to eat at a more elegant restaurant or if it's the
weekend, arrive early, before the restaurant gets full. (Plan a post-
dinner walk or activity, such as strolling Navy Pier in summer or the
John Hancock Center's Christmas tree in winter.)
• Do lunch. Some of the city's finer restaurants are open for lunch.
Why not make lunch your special meal of the day? The ambience
may be more kid friendly, the prices lower, and your children better
behaved. Then you can all have pizza for dinner, and you won't feel
you've missed out.
• Relax. Chicagoans are very friendly, and most restaurants are
delighted to have children dining with them.