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Dining, Entertaining & Celebrations

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How parents can dine out without drama

Some parents cringe at the mere mention of dining out with their children, envisioning 90 minutes of crying, taunting and tantrums. While some cultures place great significance on dining out as a family, North Americans seem less inclined to do so -- unless it is at a family-friendly (not food-friendly) chain restaurant or fast food establishment. However, dining out with young children doesn't have to be a debacle. Employ a few of the following tips, and your next night on the town with the youngsters in tow might just prove to be a nice family experience.

* Get munchies. A hungry child is often a cranky child. Ask if bread, crackers or chips can be placed on the table early on so that the kids have something to snack on and distract them from hunger pangs.

* Request a table near the bathroom. While looking at the restroom doors may not make for the most inviting ambiance, it does reduce the hassle of snaking through tables and rows with a child who needs to use the restroom.

* Order for the table. Giving kids a choice may waste time and lead to arguments. Order a few items that everyone can share, increasing the likelihood that your child will find something he or she wants to eat.

* Stick with recognizable foods. Now is not the time to ask junior to delve into seafood salad or osso bucco. Save taste-testing for another time when there's nobody else around to hear your child's protestations.

* Make dessert a reward not an expectation. If the children behave to your liking, dessert can be a reward. It will reinforce good behavior the next time you decide to dine out.

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