Dining out with unplugged kids


We don’t go out to eat too often. It’s can be expensive and crazy. But, we also want to raise children that know how to behave in various social settings. It’s never even close to perfect, but we like to try.

It’s never been outright stated, but we have an unplugged at the table rule. Both at home and at restaurants. We want to interact with one another and enjoy each other’s company. Honestly, I don’t think our kids have even thought to ask for one of our phones on which to play. (Notice I said think. I don’t want to come across and high and mighty. Everybody does their parenting thing their own way. And, I know that I have screw ups daily!)

Now that that’s out of the way.

Tips for Dining Out with Unplugged Kids

Tips for Dining Out with Unplugged Kids

1. Establish and set the expectations

We discuss the behavior, voices and attitudes we expect to see when in a restaurant and we hold them to them. We also understand that they are kids and they will still do kid things, so we remind them a lot.

2. Go early

We tend to go in much earlier than we would normally eat dinner. We aim for 5:00-5:30 at the latest while we normally eat closer to 6 at home. This helps catch them before they are so hungry that they want their food right away and their patience is close to 0. We usually don’t have to wait when going in this early and it decreases the number of adult only tables that might get upset my seeing kids. (And, I’m not even talking about fancy restaurants. Some people just don’t seem to like kids!) We often eat with the older crowd and that’s totally fine with us!

Tips for eating out with kids without electronic devices

3. Call ahead seating or reservations

Even though you are going early, you never know if they have an even or something filling the place up. Call and see if they take reservations or call ahead seating. It’s no fun waiting in a tiny area with kids that are hungry and want to eat.

4. Let them be proactive in their ordering

Allow them to read the kids menu (if applicable) and decide what they’d like to eat (sometimes we give them choices, sometimes they get to pick completely). Then, they get to give the server their order. They practice their manners and also take responsibility for what they order.

Tips for eating out with kids without electronic devices

5. Make sure of the activity pages

They might be “too old” for the activities on the page, but you would be surprised if you do it with them how much fun everybody has. We usually get in several good matches of tic-tac-toe which not only passes the time, but also has us interacting with one another instead of with our faces in a screen!

6. Dessert

I’m not above a bribe. It usually actually isn’t necessary and most often is a surprise for them. They never really know if we will get one or not, but they know how to behave and know that it’s a good possibility there will be a dessert to share. Of course, this also makes mom and dad happy!

Tips for eating out with kids without electronic devices

We were recently invited out to Longhorn Steakhouse (where they do call ahead seating) to try out their new Fall into Flavor Menu and practice what we preach! Although, we were guilty of getting our phones out, it was only to take pictures of our yummy food! My salad (hold the cheese please) was fabulous. I did have some strawberry, grape and orange scavengers, but I’m good about sharing!

Tips for eating out with kids without electronic devices

Mr. Serious tried the Apple cider Baby Back ribs with the new potato and leek au gratin. The ribs were really good and truly fell off the bone. And it was very filling as well. He actually did’t finish his meal!

Tips for eating out with kids without electronic devices

This fall, the menu celebrates freshness and hearty fall flavors. Check out all of these fabulous features.

  • Brew Pub Pretzel Sticks (appetizer) – Warm pretzel breadsticks served with Sam Adams beer cheese and bacon honey mustard.
  • New Potato & Leek Au Gratin (side) – Layered with aged white cheddar & bacon, topped with Parmesan breadcrumbs.
  • Mushroom Truffle Bisque (soup) – Smooth, Creamy, Rich-flavored soup with an earthy mushroom flavor and a sour cream drizzle.
  • Bleu Ridge Wedge Salad – Crisp heart of romaine topped with ripe tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon, crumbled bleu cheese, red onions and bleu cheese dressing.
  • Pumpkin Spice Lava Cake – Warm pumpkin spice cake, cream cheese icing, Maker’s Mark bourbon caramel sauce and candied pecans.
  • Harvest Mushroom Filet – Our most tender center-cut filet topped with shiitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms in a hearty red wine bordelaise.
  • Apple Cider Baby Back Ribs – Fall-off-the-bone ribs coated with a housemade sweet & savory hard cider BBQ glaze.

The Giveaway:

Longhorn Steakhouse would like to give one lucky reader a $25 Longhorn Steakhouse Gift Card to try out something yummy on their menu!

$25 Longhorn Steakhouse Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Thank you to Longhorn Steakhouse for hosting us and for the giveaway. All thoughts are my own.

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  1. mrs. hils says:

    I like to take a collapsible Tupperware container with me for leftovers. No need for styrofoam that lets the food dry out in the fridge!

  2. mrs. hils says:

    Harvest Mushroom Filet? Yes, please!

  3. Leigh Anne Borders says:

    Your daughters are precious! When we go out we unplug. We leave the phones in the car so there are no distractions!

  4. Leigh Anne Borders says:

    I would like to try their new potato au gratin.

  5. We have a bag we take whenever we go out. One of the things in it is twist-up crayons and a spiral notebook. We bring our own crayons because it’s more fun to have lots of colors. We bring a spiral notebook instead of a coloring book because it’s more flexible. We can practice reading/writing/math or draw.

  6. Mmmm, the potato and leek au gratin sounds good to me.

  7. For dining without kids, I always have to talk to HUBS about being unplugged. Owning your own business means you’re always on the clock – even when eating. So, I try to get a certain amount of screen-free time from him at meals!

  8. Cindy Graf Jolly says:

    Good tips! I think my kids are a bit older now but really useful for when I have grand kids.

  9. Katherine says:

    Take your time annd dont be in a rush

  10. I agree with going early since you don’t know how long it’ll take to order & prepare the food. We also take some extra pens/crayons/little notepads to doodle on in case the restaurant doesn’t have them.

  11. Avoid taking the kids if at all possible and try to get a table where your husband can’t watch a sports game on TV the whole time.

  12. Melissa J says:

    Never be afraid to ask for crayons for the adults. Adults can have fun too.

  13. Melissa J says:

    The pumpkin spice lava cake sounds delicious.

  14. Mariaelena says:

    I like to take something sweet like a lollipop to get my son to eat all his food. Even at home I have a hard time getting him to stay sitting until he’s done eating.

  15. EMMA L HORTON says:


  16. EMMA L HORTON says:


  17. with kids is fun, if you have kids…if not I’d rather they were left at home 🙂

  18. Adrienne gordon says:

    I always make sure to get an appetizer or bread right away when my kids go with us

  19. Rita Leonard says:

    Go early before the regular dinner rush. You will not have to wait with kids while they get impatient

  20. Amy Pratt says:

    Don’t let the kids fill up on soda.

  21. Cynthia C says:

    My tip is to talk to the kids beforehand about what they are allowed to order. It can avoid a tantrum in public.

  22. Cynthia C says:

    I think the Apple Cider Baby Back Ribs sound delicious.

  23. With twins, go early and see if they can bring their meal earlier than others.

  24. I bring toys with me.

  25. Bleu Ridge Wedge Salad

  26. Debbi Wellenstein says:

    We bring along simple activities for the kids, such as books and crayons,.

  27. Debbi Wellenstein says:

    I am excited to see the fall menu items, especially Bleu Ridge Wedge Salad.

  28. trisha kilpatrick says:

    You have to dine out with kids to teach them how to dine out, but I think parents should always be prepared to remove the kids from the restaurant if the behavior is too disruptive just out of courtesy to the other patrons. I spent many meals out with the family sitting in the car with whomever decided to throw a fit. Now, they are more polite than far too many adults.

  29. dawn wright says:

    Don’t fill up on the appetizers.

  30. Tracy Pryor says:

    If its possible get a table outside or near a window. My son is always better behaved when he has something to look at.

  31. Tracy Pryor says:

    I’d love to try the Brew Pub Pretzel Sticks.

  32. Sue Ellison says:

    When dining with kids, I make sure to bring something to keep them entertained. For the adults, no cell phones, it’s a time to enjoy each others company.

  33. Enjoy yourself, don’t forget that you are there to have a good time.

  34. I always allow my kids to select and order their own meals. Since going out to eat is such a rare occasion for them, I don’t mind them ordering “chicken and fries” every time. It keeps the complaining to a minimum.

  35. Ann Fantom says:

    My tip for dining out with kids, is to have their entrees brought to the table when the adults appetizers or salad are brought out.

  36. Ann Fantom says:

    I would like to try Longhorn Steakhouse’s Apple Cider Baby Back Ribs.

  37. Stephanie says:

    i wanna try the Apple Cider Baby Back Ribs

  38. Stephanie says:

    i like to use coupons if i can

  39. My best tip with kids is keep the kids in mind when choosing a restaurant and also don’t go when it is real busy.

  40. I usually bring coloring books with me to dinner

  41. sherry butcher says:

    For me the best tips for dining out is without kids. They usually get more time eating out then we do so once in a while not with them.

  42. sherry butcher says:

    sounds best to me is the Apple Cider Baby Back Ribs.

  43. I always make sure they take a nap before going out. I also bring things to do for them so they don’t bored.

  44. steven weber says:

    Drinks at home so you don’t spend too much on drinks.

  45. Stephanie Grant says:

    My best tip for dining out with kids since I have a 6 year old when we are deciding where to eat we usually let him pick the place as long as it’s a place we can all agree on and usually it we have no problem with his choice of places.

  46. Stephanie Grant says:

    ooo I’m most excited about trying the Brew Pub Pretzel Sticks!

  47. ALWAYS bring a sweater no matter the season! It’s unfortunate that some restaurants keep the temperature for their employees and not their guests comfort!

  48. Pumpkin spice lava cakes is a must…I love all things pumpkin but this is the first I’ve heard of this awesome creation!!

  49. My best tip is to go early so as not to have to wait for table.

  50. My tip go when not packed.

  51. Bleu Ridge Wedge Salad sounds very good to me.

  52. I like to bring something to keep the kids busy. And when they provide a couple of crayons and a picture all the better.

  53. The New Potato & Leek Au Gratin sounds good.

  54. I think there should be sections in restaurants for parties with kids and without.

  55. I’d love to try the Mushroom Truffle Bisque.

  56. I don’t know about dining out without kids… since we have not ever had that option (unless we do lunch)
    But, I normally try to take crayons to have something for him to do…and when the place only gives you a yellow and a green or something, your options are limited, if I keep a few extra he has more fun

  57. I would say I am eager to try : New Potato & Leek Au Gratin …. the hubby? The ribs, all the way – I know that 🙂

  58. I have found if I bring a small container of playdoh or something to entertain my daughter she is much better.

  59. Rita Leonard says:

    I bring some toy or an ipad for the kids when we have them with us.

  60. Monique Rizzo says:

    Have your kids take a nap right before you leave for dinner.

  61. Jacquelyn Neuffer says:

    We always carry a bag with things to keep them occupied just in case there are long waits.

  62. Go early is definitely the best tip

  63. I love blue cheese dressing so the Bleu Ridge Wedge Salad is definitely making my mouth water.

  64. Hilory Davis Wiggins says:

    Good luck everyone

  65. Kristin Goodson says:

    Always bring small toys to play with and a snack just in case the food takes awhile to come.

  66. beth shepherd says:

    When mine were smaller I would bring a small container of crayons and an activity book for them.
    Thank you!

  67. Jennifer Rote says:

    Don’t got the first week o the month and try to not go on weekends to avoid crowds.

  68. Susan Christy says:

    No kids, so my best tip for eating out is to use Groupons or other coupons to save money.

  69. Susan Christy says:

    Mushroom Truffle Bisque sounds delicious!

  70. Mendy Dinsmore says:

    My tip would be, always be nice to your server. If your nice to them, they will treat you the same.

  71. Great tips! We don’t like to have screens at meal time either.

    My best tip is make sure the kids aren’t too hungry, and are entertained while waiting. We color, play eye spy, talk about how school is going, and just try to really connect during that time. We also reward with dessert if they behave! 🙂 Also, practicing at home helps. We have a rule now that we sit and wait at the table until everyone is done eating.

  72. Amy Orvin says:

    My best tip is to use coupons to save money. No kids ever go with me.

  73. Amy Orvin says:

    The New Potato & Leek Au Gratin sounds amazing to me

  74. Get a sitter and go out with your spouse!

  75. It’s more relaxing and enjoyable without kids, but I like having their company and having them be able to experience a yummy meal too! So either is fine with me!

  76. The Bleu Ridge Wedge Salad sounds really good.

  77. Caroline Wampler says:

    My best tip is to only let them use the ipad at a restaurant. The novelty doesn’t wear off. But best to leave them home if its for an adults only dinner.

  78. Caroline Wampler says:

    The Apple Cider Baby Back Ribs sound amazing!!!

  79. Rebecca Graham says:

    Go early before the restaurant becomes crowded.

  80. We always do call ahead seating, with the kids especially, but most of the time we do it even if we are going out without them.

  81. Their pumpkin spice lava cake just sounds heavenly!!!

  82. Susan Smith says:

    I would always bring activity books when we go out to keep my children busy while we waited for our food.

  83. Sam Stamp says:

    I don’t have any kids but I always bring something to keep myself occupied! It can be very boring waiting for food to arrive. My tip is to always come prepared to wait.

  84. T Michelle Trump says:

    I pack crayons, sketch pads and mad libs!

  85. T Michelle Trump says:

    I would love to try the apple cider baby back ribs!

  86. Peggy Johnson says:

    Go when the kids are rested and before the restaurant gets too crowded

  87. I guess it depends on the purpose because I love spending time with the kids but at the same time it’s nice to have a nice relaxing evening.

  88. Darla Peduzzi says:

    Bring quiet toys and have a lot of patience 🙂

  89. Darla Peduzzi says:

    The Harvest Mushroom Filet sounds amazing! Makes me hungry just thinking about it!

  90. shelly peterson says:

    I pack small toys like cars to keep them occupied and make sure they have had a nap so they are not cranky.

  91. shelly peterson says:

    The Apple Cider Baby Back Ribs sound really good

  92. I find that dining out can at times be very stressful. There have been a number of times where we had to ask for it to go. It’s funny, most times we dine out, we are complimented about how well behaved our children are. My husband and I look at one another like, “Are you talking to us?”. Our last resort, and we almost always pull it out of the hat by end of diner is the cellphone. It’s hard for my three-year-old son to sit still for very long but you hand him a game on the table or a cellphone and you wont even know he is in the room. His three-year-old twin sister, she is loud, but she like to be apart of the adult conversation so she very rarely gives much trouble.

  93. Dawn Keenan says:

    Dining out is great. We always took the kids. We tried to find kid friendly places, but if we felt the place wasn’t super friendly, we always had entertainment…a new book, crayons, whatever. And if you bring the kids, don’t expect an intimate dinner. They need your attention.

  94. My best tip is to take them to a buffet. That way, they get to try new things, or things they already like.

  95. kyl neusch says:

    a buffet is always a fun thing

  96. Heather Johnson says:

    My best tip with kids would be to go to a buffet and to bring color books and crayons to keep them busy

  97. Heather Johnson says:

    I think the Pumpkin Spice Lava Cake sounds delicious!!

  98. Lorena Keech says:

    We tend to go early to catch the “early bird” specials. Maybe not the same ambiance but the savings definitely outweigh candlelight.

  99. Lorena Keech says:

    I love mushrooms, so the mushroom bisque sounds best to me, yum!!

  100. janna johnson says:

    make sure you have plenty of time so you don’t have to rush.

  101. Call for reservations so you don’t have a long wait.

  102. Apple Cider Baby Back Ribs sound yummo!

  103. Stephanie Gilbert says:

    Try to go at a time when they are hungry but not so hungry that they can’t wait….or a place that has bread, crackers, or a quick appetizer they will enjoy while waiting.

  104. Amanda Sakovitz says:

    I would say make sure the kids have something to keep them busy such as coloring or a book.

  105. Mary Happymommy says:

    My son brings his tablet and headphones to entertain himself while we wait for our meals to be served.

  106. Mary Happymommy says:

    The pumpkin spice lava cake sounds fabulous!

  107. Thomas Murphy says:

    Get reservations and leave the kids at home!

  108. saralynns2 says:

    I think figuring out what the kids will want (looking at the menu online) is super helpful when the waitress comes to the table the 1st time and it keeps everything moving quickly!

  109. I’d love to try the Pumpkin Spice Lava Cake!

  110. Stephanie Larison says:

    Bring a few little toys for the tiny ones who can’t eat just yet.

  111. Come with age appropriate conversation topics that will enable insightful conversation with your kids, so that they do not turn to entertaining themselves in inappropriate ways. 🙂

  112. Stephanie Larison says:

    The Apple Cider Baby Back Ribs would be amazing!

  113. The fall flavor that has me going mmm is the Pumpkin Spice Lava Cake. Wow! Yum.

  114. Read the menu ahead of time, so it cuts down on the amount of time it takes you to decide on what you want. It also gives you a heads up on what’s available should you have the kids with you!

  115. I always keep a stash of crayons in my purse so that my little guy can color on the place-mats to keep him occupied!

  116. Amanda Sakovitz says:

    the New Potato & Leek Au Gratin sounds yummy!

  117. bring a tablet for them to play with and headphones… kids hate waiting!

  118. Ashley Tucker says:

    Make sure you have something to keep kids entertained while you are waiting on food to arrive.

  119. Ashley Tucker says:

    Pumpkin Spice Lava Cake sounds wonderful!

  120. jenn giannetto says:

    i like to make sure to bring crayons and paper when eating out with my kids to keep them occupied while we are waiting for the food

  121. Bring crayons for them to color and play tic-tac-toe!

  122. Jessica Whitehouse says:

    We usually only take the kids at lunch. There are several reasons for this- lunch menus are typically cheaper than dinner, the kids are more rested and less likely to be cranky, and we don’t have to worry about disturbing other guests because lunch is usually less crowded than later.

  123. My best tip is to go when kids are in a good mood. Don’t go right before nap-time…unless, of course, they fall asleep in the car and stay asleep in their stroller while you eat. A cranky kid is not fun. If they’re a little bit older, something to distract them – my son likes to play on his 3DS and it keeps him from getting antsy if the service is slow/busy.

  124. Heather Dawn says:

    Without kids at a dit down restaurant.

  125. Drink water not soda or spirits, much overpriced.
    Thanks for the contest.

  126. I’d like to try the Mushroom Truffle Bisque (soup).

  127. Sadie Farr says:

    Always make sure your kids are on their best behavior so you don’t bother or interupt anyone around you

  128. I like to order one meal for my daughter and I to share since she doesn’t eat a lot.

  129. Richard Hicks says:

    With kids, take their favorite video game or toy to occupy them

  130. My tip for dining out is to find a place that can make everyone happy! Or else you’ll all end up miserable if one isn’t happy 🙂

  131. Kimmy Ripley says:

    My 4 year-old has always been well-behaved when we take her out. We tend to go out to eat early so she isn’t starving which could lead to impatience.

  132. My best tip is to not take the kids, especially if you want a date. Great time to relax, sit back and have someone cook your meal for you.

  133. Thomas Murphy says:

    The Mushroom Truffle Bisque sounds good

  134. Jennifer Marie says:

    Try to go before rush hour so you don’t have to wait for a seat forever!

  135. Jennifer Marie says:

    I would like to try the Pumpkin Spice Lava Cake.

  136. Go to a place with a lot of options.

  137. Marilyn L says:

    be nice to the servers

  138. Laurie Emerson says:

    My best tip for eating out with kids is to go over the options before you go to the restaurant. This means less time looking over the menu and less time for your kids to wait to eat.

  139. Laurie Emerson says:

    The Pumpkin Spice Lava Cake sounds exciting and delicious!

  140. Go early if with the kids, easier to get a table and food faster.

  141. Birdiebee says:

    We take the kids out once per month and each month, one of the kids gets to pick where we go which makes it so much easier.

  142. Jill Myrick says:

    We make sure that the dinner conversation when we are out is a subject that everyone enjoys.


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