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Celine Bell has 10 tips to help you not hate going to restaurants with small children

Eating out BC (before children) was a simple affair. Often a spontaneous gathering of friends. A couple of aperitifs before you even considered the menu. Encouraging each other to order another bottle of wine and try the cheese plate. After kids, it's a different story. Short attention spans and fussy eaters, combined with bad acoustics and leisurely service can suck the joy out of what you once loved. But you don't have to change your life completely, just make a few adjustments. Here are some hacks for eating out with kids which work for me...

1.    Key to everything: ignore all judgy looks from other diners. They probably aren’t judging you anyway, just feeling your pain.

2.    Eat early. 12pm is now lunch time. Then you can still be home for naptime, and the restaurant will be quiet. 

3.    If you walk in and there are tablecloths, walk back out again.

4.    When you get there, don’t let the waiter disappear after seating you. No way. Get in there quick. Order bread/doughballs (for the kids) and wine (for you). Take some stickers, colouring books or an iPad to keep their bums on seats before the food arrives.

5.    Don’t be fussy – you’ve not got time to slowly peruse the wine list.  Red, white or pink is about as fussy as you can be right now.

6.   Let them taste food from your plate and talk to them about what you're eating and what it tastes like. If they eat faster than you and get annoying, order ice cream/a babycino and the bill at the same time. 

7.    Take cash so you don't have to wait for the one old credit card machine to wend its way to you.

8.    Someone will have an accident/throw spaghetti/refuse to eat anything at all. Smile, and reach for the wine. You are teaching your kids how to behave out and about, but some days they won’t be on your side. You might as well enjoy what you've ordered while you can. 

9.    Don’t be afraid to walk out. If the kids are kicking off and you aren’t having a good time, there is no use throwing good money after bad.  But don’t forget to pay (voice of experience).

10.   Clean up. Or at least show willing. Only a parent should have to pick up soggy wipes and half-chewed pizza.

:: Celine Bell blogs at Bell from Bow here.