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The Fine Art of Dining Out With Kids

Dining out with kids in Cecconi

You are barely midway through your dinner when your child grows bored of her toys. Within minutes, her outstretched hands have sent silverware and water glasses crashing to the floor. As a wait staff hurries over, you grip your child’s hands, which instantly results in a meltdown. By now you are painfully aware of the stares around you. Ten minutes later, you are all on your way home.

Almost everyone who has dined out with kids has gone through this baptism of fire, and the outcomes have been varied. Some now dine out sans kids, others put it on hold for years and the rest have learnt the art of eating out with kids minus the tears.

As it turns out, the secrets to a fuss-free meal with children is determined by two factors – choosing the right venue and being prepared for just about anything.


Choose The Right Venue

Jane Wardle, the founder and editor of Eat Out With Kids, has spent the last five years putting together a rich resource of child-friendly cafes, pubs and restaurants across Australia. Here are her top three criteria when selecting a venue:

Welcoming staff. This is the most important feature of a venue. It can be quite daunting just leaving the house with toddlers, much less taking them somewhere to eat. If staff can make parents feel more relaxed, it will rub off on the kids and everyone will have a wonderful experience.

Spaciousness. Another crucial feature. It is not comfortable being at a table with kids and having another table very close by. A little pram room between tables will give toddlers and parents some breathing room in case something flies off the table!

A creative kid’s menu. Many places have fairly stereotypical kid’s meals like chicken nuggets and pizza. Favourites are those that offer kids a smaller serving of adult meals. It is great to see a restaurant think outside the box and give its youngest diners a new culinary experience.


Be Prepared

You have packed the toys and snacks, chosen an appropriate venue and made sure your child is well rested. But you can never be too prepared. Here are four tips to a great dining experience.

Dine early. Tell the restaurant that you will be bringing children and ask for the earliest possible reservation to lessen the chance of your child getting tired close to nap or bedtime. The other benefit of arriving early is your order will be among the first to be prepared. 

Eat Together. Do not ask for your child’s meal to be served first. If your child is done eating as you are just beginning your salad, he or she will become restless very quickly. Instead, order an appetizer and serve your child a small portion to soothe any hunger pangs before the main course arrives.

Behave like a family. It is easy to have a conversation with the adults and ignore your child. Treat him or her like any other dinner guest by engaging him or her in a conversation about the experience and food.

Improvise. If the experience is not unfolding as planned, there is nothing wrong in bringing it to an early end. This applies even – and especially – if you are only in the parking lot.


Where To Dine With Your Kids

Melbourne: Cecconis and Scugnizzo

Sydney: Quay and Catalina Rose Bay

Canberra: Banana Leaf Restaurant and Waters Edge Canberra

Adelaide: Lenzerheide and Gauchos

Perth: Monterey’s Brasserie and 150 East Riverside Bar

Brisbane: Bistro Alegria and The Shore Restaurant

Hobart: Point Revolving and Tynwald

Darwin: Pavonia Place and Pee Wee’s at the Point


What are your tips for dining out with kids? Share them with us in the comments below!


(Image credit: Cecconis)

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