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Yes, it is possible to eat out with young children. By following these tips, you can set yourself up for success, even if your toddler is dishing out the drama.

Time it Right

Eat early – 11 to 11:30 for lunch and 4:30 to 6 pm for dinner. This provides you and your little ones with a less crowded restaurant as well as faster service. Also, by arriving a little ahead of your child’s regular eating time, he or she won’t be hungry until the food actually arrives, preventing (hopefully) any meltdowns due to hunger.

Choose the Right Establishment

Make sure to choose a family-friendly restaurant. This does not mean it has to be fast-food, but it probably won’t be a fancy restaurant either. By taking your child into a place that is too fancy, you are setting yourself up for failure. You may be embarrassed if your child is disruptive, even though it is not her fault. By choosing the right place, you will set yourself up to feel comfortable to enjoy a meal with your children.

Don’t get too comfortable

If your child is still in a high-chair, don’t expect them to sit for any longer than twenty minutes, possibly even less. Be prepared to go for a walk around the restaurant or even outside. It takes self-control to sit still for a long period of time, and children cannot be expected to have that kind of self-control yet.

Be prepared to leave if Necessary

Even the most well-planned meal can turn into a complete disaster when young children are involved. If things get out of control, you may have only one choice: to leave. Don’t let it ruin your mood. You can pack your food to go, put your child to sleep in his crib, and then enjoy your meal at home.

By preparing for your dining trip ahead of time, you can nip many of the problems young children present in the bud. Go at a reasonable time, choose an appropriate establishment and be prepared to leave if you must!