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Etiquette Question: Kids and Restaurants

Filed under Etiquette

Baby at restaurantDear Charles,
I’m a new mom and I’m facing a dilemma. I’m a complete foodie, who loves to go out to eat. Before my baby was born I thought that it would be relatively easy to take him with me to restaurants, once he got a little older. However, my sister keeps telling me that it’s rude to take a baby to a restaurant.

Are there any hard and fast rules about kids and restaurant etiquette? I see children and babies out with their parents all the time, but my sister says that those parents are just self-serving and not thinking of others.

What’s your opinion on taking kids to restaurants? And how should I teach my child to be a considerate diner when he’s older?

Thank you for helping me!

Diana Friedman

Hi Diana,

While I understand where your sister is coming from, I don’t agree with her in all cases. Certainly there are some fine-dining experiences that are negatively affected by the presence of children. But in general I believe that kids bring levity and joy into most environments.

What I would suggest doing is taking your baby to kid-friendly eating establishments before trying some of the more grown-up places. There are plenty of excellent restaurants who work to ensure that children are welcomed and entertained.

As a newborn, your baby will probably just sleep in his car seat carrier or in your arms during your meal. This may be the easiest time to take him out to eat! If, however, he begins to cry, I would suggest that you or your partner take him out of the dining area, either into the bathroom or outside.

Showing other diners that you’re responsive to your child will help them feel at-ease about dining near a baby. I will admit that there are times when I just want a quiet relaxing meal out, away from my kids! But as long as I know the baby’s needs are being met quickly and quietly, then the experience is positive.

When your child gets older, things will change quite a bit! When he’s sitting at a high chair eating solid foods, then you know you’ll have a mess gather beneath your table. Please, please tip your server well when you bring a messy toddler with you.

There’s really no way to teach a one or two-year-old how to eat neatly; they simply do not have the coordination. You can mitigate the mess by bringing a rubber place-mat and a large pocketed bib. I’ve also seen some people place a small rubber mat under their child’s high chair, though most people don’t do this.

The issue of teaching etiquette to children deserves a blog post of its own! I’ll address this issue in the next few weeks.

Thanks, Diana! And congratulations on being a new mom.


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