Tips for dining in restaurants with children

This post was first published in July 2014 under the title of Child Safety in Restaurants. Now it’s October 2015, and I’m updating it due to the increase media attention of cafes closing due to ‘disrespectful’ parents and children trashing playrooms in their cafes, and restaurant owners yelling at crying children to leave the premises.


Child Safety in restaurants

Dining in restaurants with children is a game of give and take.

Not between you and your children…. between you and the staff.

My friend and I were dining in a cafe with our babies. My baby was sitting at the table in his highchair playing with some toys, my friend’s baby was in her pram capsule beside the table.

We weren’t in a fancy pants cafe but we weren’t in a ‘family restaurant’ either; we were in between – somewhere where you would you get your morning coffee or grab a quick bite to eat with the kids. It was nice and staff were friendly.

So you can imagine my surprise when the waiter carried our hot coffees over the top of the baby capsule and then proceeded to place them in the reach of my eleven month old.

I was pretty annoyed, as you can imagine.

But it got me thinking – this isn’t the first time I’ve had to do this, and it isn’t the only issue like this I’ve had to raise in restaurants.

Family Having Lunch Together At The Mall

Family Having Lunch Together At The Mall

Now I’m not the kind of person to kick up a fuss, I am happy to wait longer than normal for a meal, and I rarely tell the waiter that a coffee is cold or bitter. But if there is potential for a child to be scolded by boiling hot water, than I’m going to speak up.

I thought that this fundamental rule of waitressing was common knowledge. Surely you don’t have to have certified training to understand that passing hot coffees over a child, or an adult for that matter, is not okay! In all my experience in hospitality, working as a waitress to support myself through university, and waitresing in my family owned restaurant, has this ever been an issue.

But it is not only the wait staff that need to be mindful of children in restaurants, it is the parents as well.

Actually let me reframe… it is the parent’s responsibility first, then the restaurant owners! But time and time again I see kids running around tables of other patrons, kids walking around without shoes or socks on, and children screaming and spitting on others.

With all this media attention about cafe’s closing due to disrespecting parents and children, and restaurant owners yelling at children for crying in restaurants, it is time I wrote down the fundamental tips for dining in restaurants with children.


1. Don’t carry any hot food or drinks over babies or children – this includes their heads, arms, legs and babies in capsules

2. Don’t place any food and drinks in the reach of children in high chairs or children sitting on their parent’s laps

3. In fact, don’t place any crockery or cutlery near the child. If you feel obliged, placed a napkin there – they can’t stab themselves in the face with a napkin

4. When getting a drink for a small child, ask the parents if they would like it in a plastic cup – with a straw. This will help prevent a disaster both on the floor and all over the child

5. If you are going to put a baby in a high chair, make sure the high chair has a crotch strap otherwise the baby will just slide straight out the bottom

6. When bringing a drink or food out to a small child, ask the parents if they would like it in front of them or the child. Sometimes parents like to control the amount of food or types of food their children eat

7. If possible, bring the children’s food out first. They are less patient than adults and if they’re hungry and waiting… well let’s just say you don’t want to wait on a hungry irritable child

8. If possible, don’t sit kids near the buffet, a fancy water feature or the main walkway. Kids are kids and are going to move around in their seats or drop bits and pieces on the floor. Do you want to trip over cutlery or trample tomato sauce into the carpet? But at the same time, don’t put the family in a dark corner of the restaurant – after all, ‘nobody puts baby in the corner’.

Little child eating ice-cream in cafe. Adorable blonde toddler girl enjoying delicious refreshing dessert on sunny summer day.


1. Don’t let your children run around the restaurant without their shoes or socks on. Think about how much crockery and glass get smashed on floors in restaurants. This is such a safety issue for children.

2. Restaurants are a great opportunity for parents to teach their children appropriate social skills. Teach your children that it is socially unacceptable to yell and scream in restaurants by asking them to use their ‘inside voice’.

3. Don’t change your child’s nappy on the table. While many (most) restaurants don’t have change tables in bathrooms, there is space in your pram to change your child. On the occasions when I don’t have a pram (such as today when I was at a cafe at my husbands work), I changed my child in the car or on my lap in the disabled toilets using my portable change mat. Not ideal, but it is still better than in the middle of the restaurant.

4. Don’t leave your dirty nappies on the table, floor, or anywhere really. Put the dirty nappy in a plastic nappy bag and take it out of the restaurant when you leave.

5. If you are planning on going to restaurant, I usually always bring with me plastic cutlery and a plastic bowl for my son to use. When we have spontaneous restaurant visits, we ask for a plastic bowl, or use a napkin as a plate. Rarely do we let him use breakable crockery. He’s two!

6. Never let your children run around in a restaurant. Restaurants are not play areas, and children who are allowed to run around in restaurant can cause tripping hazards for the wait staff carrying hot plates and sizzling foods. I don’t want to think about the injury to a child or adult should a sizzling mongolian lamb dish tip over.

7. Don’t let you children play under or over the tables of other patrons. Yes, I’m sure your children are cute, but others may not find them cute, particularly the couple who left their children at home with a babysitter to have a child free night! It is also incredibly rude.

8. Dining out with children can be a great family outing, or your worst nightmare. Go to cafes and restaurants often when your children are young so they learn from an early age what is acceptable and not acceptable in restaurants. This will help managing their behaviour when they are more mobile.

If both wait staff and parents work together, then a family dining experience can be a smooth process with less wait staff yelling at families and less restaurants closing down.

What have your experiences been like in restaurants?

What are your tips for a good family restaurant experience?

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About Lauren Jackman (161 Articles)
Lauren Jackman is the author of Canberra Mummy. A self-confessed perfectionist, Lauren writes about the truth about pregnancy and parenting for perfectionist mummies. Lauren is a mum, wife, author, runner and a not a bad cook

1 Comment on Tips for dining in restaurants with children

  1. A few times my family of four have been placed at a small square table, whilst groups of 4 adults are placed at a larger, rectangular table. Waiters don’t seem to understand that with the extra plates, toys, colouring in etc, toddlers need MORE not less table space than as aldult.

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