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Monkey Boy’s first exposure to restaurants happened when he was a mere week old. When it comes to children, for us, they’re included in just about everything we do.  Taking even a wee little one into a restaurant is just a thing we do. When Monkey Boy was very young, we did a ton of babywearing.  This helped to make sure that he was comfortable and he could also be nursed if necessary.  In turn, he’s always been part of any restaurant experience right along with us.

Of course, we weren’t thinking about the importance of restaurant behavior back then, but since going somewhere to eat on occasion is something we do, it’s only natural to bring Monkey Boy along with us. As a result, Monkey Boy has been to all sorts of eating places with us:

From little diners

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to family style restaurants

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to places that are a bit fancier, though still family friendly, like Olive Garden.

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For our family, our expectations in a restaurant really aren’t much different than our expectations during meals at home or with family. These expectations are pretty basic:

– sit at the table and wait for the food to be served
– eat using utensils (as appropriate)
– no standing at the table
– no screaming or otherwise making loud noises
– no playing with or throwing the food
– wait for others to eat before leaving
– use napkins as needed

We actually, have never intentionally had or created a “restaurant” bag of activities for Monkey Boy to do while we wait. To date, it’s never really been anything we’d thought of doing. Typically, especially now that he’s older and requires his own meal, there’s generally a kid friendly menu/coloring page of some sort that he’ll occasionally play with. When he was younger though, we usually held him until right before our food arrived, or just gave him a spoon or straw with which to entertain himself if in a highchair.

Because we understand that children can be children and their patience and understanding of situations is lower than ours, we do know that disturbances can happen. So, on occasion, we’ve taken Monkey Boy away from the table for a change of scenery, because he was too restless while waiting, or (now) because he’s not behaving as expected. Except when Monkey Boy was younger, we always give warnings, which generally work, but there are those times. And again, this is all about reinforcing our expectations.

Today, when taken away from the table, we go to have a conversation. This generally involves one of us leaving the table and either taking him outside, to the bathroom, or even just to the lobby area to talk about how to behave. Or, in other words, one of use repeating over and over what we’re to be doing at the table. Once we’re all seated at the table again, things generally go rather smoothly.

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And so, the crux of this is, exposure is the way to go. Or, said differently, we believe that in order to learn expected behaviors, it’s important to model those behaviors.  We believe in Monkey Boy being present and given opportunities to learn the rhythms of being in a restaurant through both observation and engagement.

Does your family go out to restaurants with young children? In what ways to do you teach good restaurant behavior?

Life Skills with Toddlers: Restaurant Behavior
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17 thoughts on “Life Skills with Toddlers: Restaurant Behavior

    • August 10, 2015 at 8:20 pm

      I agree shorter wait times can be extremely helpful. Recently, we’ve had 2 servers ask us if we’d like Baby Boy’s food brought first, which was both different and incredibly thoughtful 🙂

  • August 10, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    The only way to get young children to behave well in restaurants is to expose them to restaurants early, which is what you are doing. That is great! We take our kids to family friendly restaurants to start them off. The other day I took my kids to the Cheese Cake Factory, which I think is a step above “kid friendly” so with a two year old, I was a little nervous. Yet, he did great! While we were there, a little boy who seemed about two and a half, maybe three, was running up and down the aisles in between everyone’s tables. Just running up and down, up and down. And his parents were perfectly aware that he was doing this. I would never let my toddlers do that, or any of my kids. People pay good money to eat out at nice restaurants. They shouldn’t have to be interrupted by a toddler running all around their table. I have a toddler, and even I was annoyed by this. My two year old kept looking a the kid and then would ask me, “Mama…I get down?” because he saw the little boy running around and wanted to join him. I can’t blame him, it did look fun. But I had to say, “No…you have to sit at the table. We don’t run around in restaurants.”

    • August 10, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      Katrina, these are similar thoughts/ideas we have about what Our responsibility for Our children are when out in public. On occasion, we’ll let Baby Boy wander/walk around/near/beside us in stores while we’re shopping (groceries, hardware store, thrift shop, etc.), but always being mindful of where he is, what he’s doing, and his not disturbing others.

      I try not to judge other families and their choices, but it can be quite annoying/disturbing/disruptive to have a child (of any age really) being “wild” while out in public, especially at a restaurant! 🙂

  • August 11, 2015 at 12:37 am

    We’ve always taken them out, we’ve always taught them manners, we’ve always taken them outside if they were being disruptive. The only way they learn is to be given the opportunity.

    We learned a long time ago to order quickly though! Haha!
    Kelly DeBie recently posted…20 Questions To Ask Your Kids This YearMy Profile

    • August 11, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks Silvie! It’s always good to hear others do similar things. Sometimes as a parent, I feel different from others. 🙂

  • August 11, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    You are so right, exposure is the key! I kind of shrink away from the whole restaurant thing with our toddler, so of course her restaurant skills are not so good! I think your tips are the way to go!
    Jen recently posted…#MomDare: Why I Still Nurse My 2 Year Old.My Profile

    • August 11, 2015 at 7:01 pm

      Give it a try, Jen! I bet you’ll be surprised at how well your toddler behaves after just a few short trips. Maybe stick with smaller places or even fast food (if you eat it) as an eat-in option if you’re nervous. 🙂

  • August 13, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    We usually do bring our kids out! Scarlet is six so it’s a non-issue right now. Des is three and I will admit there was a time period in which I dreaded being out with him and I’d choose kid-friendly places that don’t even really hear him over the noise!
    That said, it didn’t teach him anything and it’s been wonderful taking him places lately.
    Tamara recently posted…I’m On Vacation!My Profile

    • August 13, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      Glad you’ve gotten comfortable taking Des out and things are going so much better now! 🙂

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    • August 18, 2015 at 1:51 am

      I’m right there with you Megan! We love taking Baby Boy out and exposing him to the ‘real world’ and how things are. And thanks so much for the compliments 🙂


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*This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through, I may earn a small commission. Your price will never be affected by my affiliate link. On occasion, I also write sponsored posts, which help to run the blog as well. I thank you for supporting this space, so I can continue to share my journey and our family adventures. For more information, please visit the full disclosure here*

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