Tips for Dining Out with Kids

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Tired of whipping up gorgeous meals for the family, and ready to be served? Food can be celebrated outside of the house with a trip to a local restaurant.

Dining out is an important social skill for kids. Most parents approach this milestone with trepidation, but it doesn't have to be scary. Shop Smart's May 2008 issue had a bunch of tips for families:

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The best time to eat our with infants, toddlers and preschoolers is Sunday thru Wednesday before the lunch rush. No worries there. You and the kids have been up for hours and an 11:30 lunch is no problem and a 5:30 dinner leaves plenty of time for bath, stories and the full nighttime ritual. Arriving early means you'll get a roomy table and get faster service.They also recommend packing crayons, snacks and other diversions to make the wait for food bearable.

My tip: Bring some inexpensive utensils from home. I like the Playskool baby care line. The heat-sensitive spoons make even a stressful meal out a tad easier. The spoon changes color when hot to prevent burns and the spoons have a soft edge to keep those baby gums protected. Find at CVS for $3.19 for 3 pack.

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Playskool recommends making up silly names for food so the kids feel like their participating--I'm not so sure about that one, but tomato, tom-tom--just enjoy the meal and be thankful you don't have to do the dishes.

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