It seems like Disney is just as famous for their food as they are for their thrilling and magical attractions. In fact, many Disney restaurants are attractions within themselves!

Dining out with children can be a scary proposition, but the Disney restaurants are special and you don’t have to skip them completely for fear of your children misbehaving. With these simple planning and preparation tips, you can survive even the nicest Disney dining establishments and escape with your sanity.

1. Tell them what they can expect

For many folks, “dining out” with kids means a quick Happy Meal at McDonalds.  Your kids might not be prepared for the long, extravagant table-service meals at Disney World.

Prepare your little ones for a fancier meal by practicing at home. Set the table with your nice plates, silverware, and glassware. You can even create a menu (listing only the foods you’ve prepared of course) so they’re used to “ordering” their food. Teach manners like placing the napkin on their lap, chewing with their mouth closed, and appropriate behavior during dinner. This is not only an important teachable moment; it is also a fun and different experience that they just might look forward to doing again!

Once you’ve mastered the test meal in the comfort of your own home, consider visiting a nice restaurant in your area. Remind your children that they must practice what they’ve learned at home. Tell them that if they pass this “test,” they might get to meet their favorite character at a Character Dining or visit Cinderella Castle. This might provide the motivation necessary to follow proper dining etiquette. Eventually, this behavior will be second nature.

2. Keep them occupied

Even the most well behaved child can get restless during the long table-service dining experiences at Disney World.

Prevent your kids from getting bored by keeping them occupied. Teach appropriate table discussion by chatting about your day, what they would like to do tomorrow, their favorite souvenirs or something they’d still like to get, something they learned, or what they want to tell their friends when they get back home.

Keeping kids occupied during the long table-service dining experiences can be difficult. Older children might enjoy discussing architectural features of the restaurant.

Keeping kids occupied during the long table-service dining experiences can be difficult. Older children might enjoy discussing architectural features of the restaurant.

After chatting, some family game time might be in order. Word games require little preparation and few-to-no materials. These games can be used during any long wait in Disney at rides, restaurants, and transportation. They can even be used at home at the grocery store, during rainy days at home, or at the doctor’s office.

  • ABC Game: The first player says a word beginning with the letter A. The next player says a word beginning with B, then C, and so on. Try using only Disney words for added fun and difficulty.
  • We’re Going on a Trip: The first player says, “We’re going on a trip, and we’re taking _____.” This is like the ABC game in that the first thing you’re taking must begin with A, the second with B, the third with C, etc. Then the next player must say the first item and their own item. This gets really fun when you get towards the end of the alphabet and people struggle to remember all of the items.
  • Storyline Game: The first player says one sentence to begin a story. Other players must add one sentence at a time adding to the story. This is a great game because there is no ending. The game ends when a player provides a conclusion.
  • Phone Games: When in doubt, resort to technology (when it’s appropriate of course). There are many apps for games like Mad Libs, Heads Up!, and many more. These are fun, interactive games that keep the discussion going while providing prompts and conversation starters.
  • Pad & Pencil: Another alternative to games is the pad and pencil. Bring these with you and pull them out whenever you need to kill some time. Try playing a game where the first player makes a shape and other players add on to the shape. It’s fun to see how the whole family works together.
  • Menu Games: Most children’s menus in Disney have games like drawing, crosswords, and word searches. Disney provides kids with crayons, and this can keep some kids occupied for some time.

3. Prepare them for the food and have alternatives in mind

Many kids won’t like the fancy food at Disney’s table-service restaurants. Make sure your children know this and are willing to possibly try something new. Use Disney’s website or MyDisneyExperience to view menus, and encourage them to choose a meal ahead of time to avoid a meltdown at the restaurant.

If you’d really like to try a certain restaurant but there just isn’t anything your kids would like, ask the chef to make something off menu. Most chefs are happy to accommodate special requests.

Promising a special treat at the end of the meal can provide just the motivation kids need to be well-behaved throughout the meal!

Promising a special treat at the end of the meal can provide just the motivation kids need to be well-behaved throughout the meal!

Finally, to help your children get through the whole meal, research some special desserts and promise this at the end of the meal if they are well behaved. Disney has some of the best desserts in the world, so they certainly have something to look forward to. For example, Kona Café at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort allows you to custom make your own sundae, Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club offers a special Mickey Mouse dessert, and the California Grill makes a sweet dessert that looks like sushi.

How do you prepare for table-service restaurants at Disney with kids?
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