Friday, June 4, 2004

Plan ahead before dining out with kids

By Amanda Lauer
The (Appleton, Wis.) Post-Crescent

It's a nightmare being seated at a restaurant near unruly children - especially when they are your own.

Dining out with children can be a pleasant experience for families and other diners if parents do some planning ahead of time.

As the mother of a 3-year-old and a 20-month-old, Dr. Ann Jones, a Wisconsin pediatrician, has tried-and-true advice for parents on handling dinners away from home.

"The choice of restaurants is very important," Jones says. "Make sure the restaurant is family friendly. If you want to go out to a nicer dinner, you do it when you have a baby sitter and don't have to bring the kids."

If the restaurant you choose to eat at has a wait for seating, it might be a better choice to find another place that is less busy, even if you have your heart set on eating there. "Making kids wait and then sitting waiting for their meals, you're just asking for trouble," she says.

Jones says she always requests a children's menu as soon as she walks into a restaurant. "I order (the kids') food before I even order our drinks so that their food comes quickly."

Parents might want to give children a small snack before heading out. "If they're overhungry, by the time they get to eat they are going to be ballistic," Jones says.

She also recommends that parents judge the kids' temperaments when considering dining out.

"If the kids aren't feeling well or skipped their nap it's probably not the greatest time to take them ... out to a restaurant."

Jones says she tries to make eating meals out something her children will enjoy. "I do, in some respect, loosen my nutritional rules a little bit when I go out," she says. "I'll sometimes have it be a special time where they will get something a little bit special or different because they're more likely to eat it. If they eat healthy at home the other six days of the week then I don't worry about it quite as much."

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