Friday, 17 June 2016

Whining and dining: Eating out with the kids

Whining and dining: Eating out with the kids

In the days before children, going to a restaurant was a leisure activity; something relaxing and enjoyable.


It was an excuse to get dressed up and probably have a bottle (or two) of wine whilst putting the world to rights and, crucially, meant no cooking or washing up.

Eating out now is an entirely different experience with a whole new meaning.

It is never done in the evenings; that would be pure madness. It is not done for pleasure, usually, but necessity. Children need to eat fairly regularly or they can swiftly become extremely unpleasant; so if you head out and about with children in tow, unless you're the always-prepared packed-lunch type, at some point you're going to have to find something to eat. Sadly, I am not the always-prepared packed-lunch making type. Hell, if I remember to take bibs out with me then I feel like I've won that day.

If we are out and it reaches midday, we must immediately stop what we are doing and find a suitable eating establishment.
Being engrossed in something and failing to note the time is a terrible, terrible mistake. There is an approximate window of seven minutes between my toddler announcing she is hungry and all hell breaking loose. The baby gives no such warning.

The choice is somewhat restricted, and generally we have to settle for the first place that is already open, has seats and high chairs free and is 'child friendly'. Without exception these are the places we would have actively avoided before becoming parents. I'm talking mainly chains with no atmosphere, predictable menus and OK food. Oh, and lots of other people's children.


However well planned the trip and whatever time we arrive, the whinging usually starts about 5 seconds before the waiter arrives with the menu and informs us that there is a bit of a wait because they are busy, because apparently it is entirely unpredictable that people may wish to eat at lunch time.
Often at these family friendly chain-restaurants, there are crayons for the kids and menus to draw on, which is all well and good if we have caught the hunger in its early stages. If we are past that point, this is not acceptably distracting for the toddler. The only solution we have found to this (bar plying her with snacks which mean she won't touch her food) is to hand over a phone and let her play games or watch You Tube videos. Feel free to go ahead and judge me, it can't be as harshly as I have judged myself

My children may be small, but properly motivated they can put away a ridiculous amount of food.

There's always a comment from a well meaning old dear, always, about how well they both eat. Smug although I may feel now, along with sleeping it's not really a desirable trait once one reaches adulthood. Alas.

In a futile attempt to fill the gaping void that is their empty stomachs and restore the calm, we end up ordering a fairly expensive child-sized meal for each of them which is usually advertised as suitable for a child up to ten years old. Generally it will involve chips; I have not yet met a child that doesn't covet chips.  There is zero point trying to get vegetables into them in these places; at home I have a million tricks to get them to eat their veg (well, one: hiding it) but when eating out, baked beans are king. Peas at a push. There will probably also be some kind of pudding (usually ice cream) which I will eat most of. To help out, you understand. It's for the greater good.

Inevitably, when the food arrives, it will be hotter than the sun and this is bound to anger the hungry whingelets. Waiting for food which is right in front of their eyes is not something my children can do quietly.
Don't you dunk your chips in your ice cream?
As mentioned previously, the upside of eating out is supposed to be less tidying up.

Of course, this isn't actually the case when dining with small children. They insist on feeding themselves, however the baby in particular is not quite au fait with the skill of actually getting food in his mouth (as opposed to his hair or eyeballs) just yet, so inevitably a fairly large proportion will end up on the floor. Whether it's because I'm a decent person or just easily ashamed, I do attempt to tidy this to the best of my ability which usually involves a large amount of baby wipes and crawling around on the floor and wiping down seats and surfaces, although I am always sure to smile sweetly and leave a hefty tip anyway.

All in all, I can think of better ways to spend an hour and thirty odd quid. I should probably brush up on my packed-lunch making skills.

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99 comments:

  1. This is brilliant - so very true. I am yet to perfect the art of eating out with our little one...she usually has a complete meltdown and we end up going home. Or chips, as you say are always a winner. #triballove

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    1. It always seems like such a good idea at the time!

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  2. Eating out with a 11 month old baby is getting harder and harder, like your children she needs to eat at midday otherwise hell breaks loose. But if we in a restaurant she's too distracted by what is going on to eat....cue breakdown from hunger. Nightmare! Why is it so difficult. Still I think I prefer to eat out, as it means that I eat too, sometimes I forget to eat if we are home all day. Claire x #triballove

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    1. Ah, true! If I eat at home my food gets stolen and/or cold. Baby is also 11 months but it doesn't get better ;) My kids are ruled by their stomachs!

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  3. Urgh. Completely agree with you - we've just spent a week in Center Parcs and ate out at lunch every day... which granted was lovely but meant spending about £7 on a meal for a 1 year old... Which she'd eat about 1/4 of. Then I'd frantically try and pick up at least 1/4 of the mess she'd left on the floor... (at least the big bits) in a vein attempt at making it look like we're not a complete mess. #triballove x

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    1. They are expensive to run these kids...

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  4. I very much Love this Fran! We only go out maybe a few times a month because our toddler gets a little antsy but I love not having to clean up afterwards. I have a big love of cooking but really hate how messy of a cook I can be. I also have such a picky child right now that he won't really eat much food you can find in a restaurant. I long for yummy date night dinners. #TribalLove

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    1. Even chips? Every kid loves chips right??

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  5. Oh this is sooooo true, having just returned from Pizza Express with my two little darlings. We managed to spill one glass of milk, survive one tantrum from the doughballs being too hot and eat the grand total of hardly anything until pudding arrived. However, I discovered that Pizza Express do a rather lovely Irish Coffee. Now my fave family restaurant ;-)

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    1. Hahaha that does make it *slightly* more tolerable...

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  6. I don't dare eat out with my son unless i have the iPad with me. This mostly guarantees a quiet and well behaved boy as he'll happily play games and watch Room on a Broom :) #KCACOLS

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  7. Weirdly I was thinking about writing something on the same theme. The opening line was "much I what I enjoyed before I had children has been ruined since their arrival". Probably a bit sour in retrospect #KCACOLS

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    1. Hahaha a little but I don't blame you. Non-parent type people always think meeting for lunch will be fun! What fools. They soon learn.

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  8. I used to love going out for dinner. Having a 5 months old now, we don't do it that much. The rare times someone from the family was looking after the babe, I just wanted to come home as soon as we were finished...I agree with you, eating out with kids is never relaxing and sometimes too much work #KCACOLS

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    1. It's just not the same is it?? I think we've been out to eat by ourselves a total of twice in two and a half years!

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  9. I wish we had more places to go that offered a play area for kids! Or at least had plastic cups...the amount of times I've fear for the poor mugs and plates when we've been out while they were out is..well... haha

    These days I just need to reach for the ketchup/majonese packets and give them a clean plate to draw on. ;)

    #KCACOLS

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    1. Oh gosh yes. Why would you give a toddler a glass?? Madness!

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  10. I hardly ever take my kids out to eat, the whole thing feels a bit too stressful! But then I'm aware that if we never do it, they'll never learn how to behave in a restaurant so I really do want to start doing it actually! For the most part though, I'm the type who always has a snack at least in my bag for the kids! x #KCACOLS

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    1. That's very true. Can't expect them to learn with no experience!

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  11. Oh this is all so true! I do not enjoy eating out with my toddler at all. He always gets grumpy waiting for the food and when it arrives he only eats the chips! Don't feel bad about letting them play on your phone, sometimes it is seriously the only way to get through it all in peace. Ahh so annoying when the food comes out scalding hot. I think making packed lunches from now on might be a good idea :) xx #KCACOLS

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    1. Just requires an extra level or organisation I'm not convinced I'll ever reach!

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  12. I do find eating out less work owing to the less wiping and clearing up afterwards! #KCACOLS

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    1. That's one tick in the pro column for sure

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  13. Ah, I remember when eating out used to be fun. Now we have to worry about the Popple throwing her food on the floor, or eating too quickly so she's pissed off before our food has even arrived, or what to do if we forget a bib (which happens A LOT).

    We don't get out much. #KCACOLS

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  14. Oh my goodness! You have captured it perfectly!! Haha! Thank you! Yes, I definitely begrudge the money and time spent on something that really isn't particularly enjoyable at times! I must also get better at packed lunches (or meals in the slow cooker for the end of a long day rather than having to stop on the way home!) #KCACOLS

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    1. I have slow cooker. For a week I was a domestic goddess and now it sits, gathering dust...alas

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  15. Eating out is SO stressful now! We recently went to Corsica and not a single restaurant had highchairs! Try getting a 12 month old to sit still and eat when you can't restrain them :-/ #KCACOLS

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    1. Oh god that sounds terrible, highchairs are a must! My daughter is just about ok now without one but the baby would be a nightmare!

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  16. So true! This reminds me of a recent trip to a Harvester that happened while our car was in for some work at the garage. It was just me and the two girls and the work shouldn't have taken more than an hour. But it took three. I was caught out with no food so had to eat out. The food came reasonably quickly but not quick enough for my hungry little people and was piping hot. I gave up trying to tidy up the food discarded on the floor. I don't think we'll be welcome back �� #KCACOLS

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    1. Those places love the family crowd although I bet the waiters drink heavily at the end of their shifts

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  17. well done you on even trying - was one of my worst things to do when mine were small! Loving the picturing of you crawling around the floor on hands and knees clearing up - ha ha just brilliant! You'll be glad when those days are over! #KCACOLS

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    1. I sure will be. Although no doubt there will be new "challenges"...

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  18. urgh its tough isn't it! after our last meal out, I said never again! only when grandma can baby sit haha! #KCACOLS

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    1. I wish grandma lived closer so she could!

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  19. haha yep i remember this so well! I am so thankful mine are now 5 and 11 years old. Eating out is alot less stressful but we still don't eat out with them past 6pm lol! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

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    1. I know, when there are family dos and they say 'we'll eat early so you can bring the kids, how's 6?' it makes me wonder if they've forgotten what having children was even like

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  20. Eating out with children can be interesting, to say the least. I remember taking my 20 month old son to an old fashioned styled restaurant and he was a holy terror. This was 13 years ago and it is still burned into my mind. lol #KCACOLS it gets better!

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  21. This is my life every weekend! You're hilarious. I always say to my hubby "I'll make some sandwiches before we leave" and he shrugs it off with an "ah, we'll get something out". I really despise taking them into restaurants. Someone always cries, the food always ends up on the floor and even though they get a box of crayons each, my eldest needs ALL THE CRAYONS IN THE RESTAURANT, then disappears at the speed of light to get them, whingeing as he goes. I keep getting told that the more we do it the more they'll get used to it. I'm still waiting... Lol!! I'm glad it's not just me whose children terrorise in restaurants #kcacols

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    1. Oh yea, crayons are great but everywhere seems to have pencils now and they are never sharp so they don't work so there are always tears with that too. Ugh

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  22. Hah Hah! YES!! With you on all this. I was nodding along to everything including how food must be consumed within a few minutes of turning midday, venue, types of food to eat and mobile phone to keep them quiet. Surely we've all been there! I've noticed that as my kids are now almost 3 and almost 5, they are a tiny bit better (in terms of mess and whinging) but as you know, I've just written a post about how they still only seem to eat the same rotation of 7 types of dinner and this includes when we are out at a restaurant. It WILL get easier I'm sure. I'd just like to know WHEN!! #KCACOLS x

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    1. I saw that - looked like the menu at my house. Glad to know I've got a few years to perfect my recipes before they'll start eating other things...

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  23. I'm still at the stage where I can just ply my baby with Organix snacks and bits off my plate when we have to eat out. I am prepared for the fact that when she does get to the ordering her own food stage I will be doomed to bland chains but it hadn't crossed my mind about the detrimental effect of waiting for the food to arrive or that it may then still be too hot to eat! The shouting noise she makes now if I hover to long with spoon away from her mouth - it doesn't bear thinking about! #Chucklemums

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    1. Pre warned is pre armed! Carry food everywhere forever.

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  24. The baby looks so cute while eating. So lovely!

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    1. Thanks Abby from the Pressure Cooking Portal you cheeky thing. I won't even delete the comment because dammit my children ARE cute.

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  25. Always the burning chip tantrum and they never want to eat their own meal...only mine. Bugger!! #chucklemums

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    1. Ah yes, forgot that one. Whatever they have, yours is better

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  26. I have this to look forward to. I am kind of nervous about how it'll turn out, but I got to try eating out with the child at some point. Maybe my own experience will be worth a post? #chucklemums

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    1. That's always a pro to a bad experience - good blog material!

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  27. Oh this is sooo true! I crawl around tidying up too and we always ask for the kids food to come out "as soon as its ready" even if this would be an hour before ours. Anything for peace! And by anything, I mean buying a tiny rubber man with a sucker on which allows you to stand your phone up so your kids can watch YouTube in restaurants without even having to exert the energy to hold the phone themselves :) no judgement here. Only solidarity. Thanks for hosting #chucklemums

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  28. Just popping back again to say that the only restaurant my two will eat everything in is the golden arches! They have even put ipads in our local one, which makes me shudder when I think of food going in mouth and then fingers touching those screens! urgh #chucklemums

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    1. I had to actually think about that for a moment - sounded posh ;) I have yet to try it!

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  29. Oh I can relate completell. The amount of times a scalding hot plate of chips comes down to our table and in that instant the toddler reaches for one, i panic and start blowing and sayin hot hot hot. Toddler ends up pissed off and tells me to blow faster. I also use the phone and am sooooo thankful for kids youtube these days! #chucklemums

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  30. This brought back so many memories! My biggest gripe about eating out with the kids was the cost! Another thing I hated was all the shit left on the floor after we had been there - disgusting...makes me feel sick, cold chips, beans, roll, all squished into the floor and probably there until the place closes, because as you say, they are always almost too busy to serve you! Oh I could go on, but you certainly took me right back with this. It's slightly easier with teenagers and a couple of them still eat off the kids' menu :)#chucklemums

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    1. One good thing about teenagers maybe?!

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  31. Yup- I can totally relate to this! We try to plan our meals out so they are in a family friendly place with a play area and if there's not we make sure we're armed with a fully charged tablet for her to play on! Luckily the toddler sits quiet and scoffs her food no problem, but the waiting for the food is absolute hell! xx #chucklemums

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    1. Yes my two are very good at eating when their food actually arrives (usually) - it's the lead up to it which is unbearable!

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  32. Spot on! Couldn't have written it better myself #chucklemums

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    1. I'm glad it resonates... although I'm sorry!

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  33. Your 'baked beans are king' and 'peas at a push', made me snigger in recognition! Mine are 9 and 7 and this still applies! Also, am pleased I'm not the only one who feels compelled to clean up with napkins,wet wipes etc and pile up the crockery after a 'meal out' tee hee, oh the joys! #chucklemums

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    1. To be fair I still like a baked bean or two

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  34. this is my life!!! lol :)

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  35. Ah eting out with kids!! When the teens are away with gparents the 8 year old and I 'treat' ourselves to lunch out. She is still unfamiliar with the concept of waiting for them to cook your food..and thanks to a food channel obsession will generally go all Gordon Ramsey about the meal she gets anyway...Really don't know why we do it!!

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  36. God this is so me and my kids! The clock strikes 12 and i dash for the nearest eatery (which must supply cake for me) and make sure that eat till they fall asleep. Anyway loved this by the way! This is soon my life! #Chucklemums

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  37. I love taking Piglet to restaurants, but we have had some "moments." Luckily there are quite a few child-friendly cafes near us, although cafes that offer corners full of toys as part of the service can be more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to leaving. I have had to carry out a toddler out of the local establishments in full tantrum mode on more than one occasion. #chucklemums

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    1. We don't have any with toys - that would be perfect. Leave me to my chips and ice cream and go play, please.

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  38. My little duo hated potato in any form, including chips, until very recently - bizarre people! I however, adore them! x

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    1. That is very inconvenient - how else do you bribe??

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  39. Ha ha ha. It's like a sporting event now!! Loved the line about 'hotter than the sun' - Father always uses that line when they are arguing about the heating. Not long after I was born, Mother and Father - in a move of breathtaking naivety - attempted lunch out whilst I was sleeping. They managed the starter before everything went very wrong x #chucklemums

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    1. We did this with a small sleeping baby. We did not stay for dessert.

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  40. I last ate out in a restaurant minus kids in, er, 2009. I think I've given myself IBS by wolfing down my food in an effort to make a swift exit with a kicking off kid. You aint lived until you've been in the middle of a full-blown mentdown at McDonalds lol. And that was just me! Ha ha #chucklemums

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    1. Maybe I should stick to mcdonalds. We've not yet been there but I imagine they're used to it...

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  41. All so true! The last time we had lunch out at Wagamama the baby thought she was the ultimate evil genius as she laughed while placing noodles on my shoulder. And that's one of my better memories, the rest too traumatic to remember! #chucklemums

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    1. Sounds like something mine would do...Wee whatsits

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  42. Yup. And why is it that they always seem to bring out the kids' meals last, after everyone else's? Garrr!
    #chucklemums

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  43. My child does not covet chips! She hates potato in any of it's guises. Oh, and I always forget bibs - I'm thinking of bringing out a line of children's clothing that is already the colour or red pasta sauce and bean juice. #chucklemums

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    1. Well that is indeed peculiar! No chips eh... I wouldn't know what to feed mine!

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  44. Ha ha! Spot on. And once they're out of high chairs there is ample more opportunities for them to raise your blood pressure.. slinking under the table, standing on their chair, running around.. Now ours are a bit older (4 and 6) they are better at sitting and waiting as long as they can play with the little dish full of ketchup and mustard sachets.. or the salt and pepper pots. But the menu choices are still the same - something and chips followed by ice cream. #chucklemums

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    1. The oldest one can be trusted out of a high chair now, just about. The younger one obviously can't. I can't wait for the day that they will be able to understand the concept of waiting although I'm not actually that good at it myself to be honest.

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  45. We seem to do this a lot, and often it's not an enjoyable experience. My biggest bug bear, why do these family friendly chains serve kid sized meals with ginormous cutlery to eat it with?

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    1. I know! Get plastic spoons for goodness sake. I tend to carry around plastic cutlery with me now! Less opportunity to stab.

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  46. Haha, this is great! Eating out with young kids is always an adventure! Things get even more interesting when you whip out a boob to calm the toddler while he waits for his food-I'm always bound to get some looks. Thanks for sharing! <3 #KCACOLS

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    1. Ah well that is something I can't do as both of mine are now weaned. Iphone it is then!

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  47. I am really impressed that your children eat well. Enjoy it. It is such a relief. Cygnet is a really fussy eater. We occasionally eat out because it is fun. I often find that I am wasting my money though when Cygnet only eats the chips.

    I have also found that children's portions are often enormous. I bought Cygnet a children's pasta the other day. Cygnet, Grandma and I struggled to finished it together. Pen x #KCACOLS

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  48. Ah I am the crawl on floor with a baby wipe type Mum too! But I have to say I do like taking the boy out for lunch, I love it when he orders a babyccino at the end of the meal ha ha. #KCACOLS

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  49. Haha this is all so true! & I clean the table, chairs & floors myself too because I feel guilty! My two are easily pleased, however, & I give them straws (ie 'wands') rather than my phone to shut them up! #chucklemums

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  50. This is great! We have a post about surviving a shopping trip which describes the monumental task of eating out with the beasts! :-)

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  51. It's SO hit and miss isn't it. The odds of a good time are so low. I'm often seen under a table with a baby wipe wondering why we bothered. Mine HATE chips. Great post! #KCACOL

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  52. I always feel so bad at the mess we seem to leave when we eat at a restaurant. Boo also picks the best things to say to the waiters too! haha #KCACOLS

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