Anxiety about taking
the kids out to dinner in New York can outweigh the enjoyment
of the meal itself. The key to a stress-free evening? Preparation.
>> Eat Early. Avoid the eight o’clock rush—unless
you’re in the theater district, in which case eat late
in order to avoid hurrying pre-show customers and stressed-out
>> Sit In The Back. When making a reservation, request
an out-of-the-way table. If your kids get cranky or hyper,
they won’t disturb other diners.
>> Bring A Stroller. “It comes in handy when
toys, silverware, and food have been thrown overboard and
nothing seems to calm your screaming baby,” says Michel
Cohen, a Tribeca pediatrician and author of the parenting
book The New Basics. “If things get out of hand,
go around the block singing your most soothing lullaby. At
least your better half can enjoy the respite.”
>> Call Ahead. Ask whether the restaurant is equipped
with high chairs, and if it’s a child-friendly environment.
Mention that you’ll be bringing a child so that the
staff is ready when you arrive. (This will also increase your
chances of getting a waiter who’s good with kids.) If
you anticipate coming back, offer to pay for the broken dishes
and leave a good tip, says Cohen.
>> Bring Distractions. Books, markers, and paper,
a favorite stuffed animal that doesn’t honk or squeak—anything
that will divert their attention from breakable items (and
>> Make Manners Fun. Both Manners, Please! (800-668-8024)
and Smethport Toys (814-887-5508) have Candyland-style games
geared toward teaching etiquette in a way your little ones
will enjoy. Books like Excuse Me!: A Little Book of Manners,
by Karen Katz, will help you teach them on your own. And if
you’re really serious, enroll them in an etiquette class
at the Plaza hotel (212-546-5495; $55 including lunch).