Eating Out With Kids - SmartMom

Clean Up Your Act: Eating Out with Kids Without Getting Messy

Let’s be honest. Eating out with kids does not usually lend itself to tidiness. Kids are messy creatures. They can’t help it. They are learning to use their fine motor skills and it takes quite a long while for a wee one to get a macaroni noodle into her mouth hole without some cheesy carnage.

While there’s nothing you can do to make your baby or toddler eat like an adult when out at restaurants, there are things you can do to prevent angry stares from bus boys…well, kind of.  Here are some strategies to try with your little ones when you’re eating out…

Damage Control

You’ve really got to prepare for the worst.  Pack an extra set of clothes for each child and for yourself, while you’re at it. That way, whoever gets spilled or vomited on can head back home looking semi-decent.

There’s nothing you can really do about crumb chaos, since your child is bound to leave the table coated in a layer of rice…whether or not they ordered rice. My brother-in-law has a one-year-old and he (jokingly) suggested having a dust buster on hand for the inevitable rice situation.

I didn’t order rice, did you?”

“No…I didn’t…how did all this rice get everywhere?”

Really, though, there’s not much you can do about crumbs. Just release the guilt you feel as you walk by the bus boys.

One thing you can do to protect the table you’re sitting at though is to lay an unfolded napkin on the table before you feed your child. This way, you can ball up the napkin before you leave, giving you and the bus boys a much better rapport.

Order Wisely

Bad choices include spaghetti, anything with sauce, rice, tacos, ribs, you get the idea. You might want to avoid anything with small pieces or anything moist. Better options, if you’re looking to leave less mess, are grabbable foods. Think chicken fingers. Fries. Grilled cheese sandwiches.  Most restaurants have this figured out and their kid’s menu reflects that.

Seek Supplies…Or Don’t

With your first kid, you buy all the supplies and maybe use them for a few days. But after a while (or after a few kids), burp cloths become whatever cloth or soft thing is nearest. Bibs become the top of whatever shirt your baby is wearing, and you can just forget about those little snack-holding contraptions. A Ziploc baggie or just the container that the yogurt bites come in is usually what gets thrown in the diaper bag.

There are some great gadgets out there though and they really do make life easier – especially when eating out. There are bibs that are designed to catch food, table covers that stick onto tables designed to catch messes, and floor mats that you can find to collect inevitable food chunks.

All you can do is be as prepared as you can be. Pack extra clothes and order wisely, but most importantly, be mentally prepared for a mess. It will get better and you will look back fondly on the days every table you graced wound up covered in rice.

SmartMoms, what are your tricks for minimalizing mess when you’re out and about? Share with us in the comments section below.


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About Scarlet Hiltibidal

Scarlet has written for and managed various publications - her articles reaching over 38 million readers. She has a degree in counseling and worked as a 4th grade teacher before entering the media realm. Currently, she writes for Smart Mom and is also writing children's curriculum for a church in Miami. Her favorite things to do are tell her husband every thought that crosses her mind, play with her two little girls, and connect with other moms on the SmartMom app! Visit her blog at and follow her on Twitter @ScarletEH.