11 Tips for Taking Children to Public Places AND Enjoying It

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It was a hot day – 41 degrees Celsius.

We were achieving a bucket list dream – attending the Aussie Tennis Open in Melbourne. We thought it would be great to take the girls with us and brought tickets before we knew the brutality of the weather forecast.

The girls were pretty good considering; we spent most of the time indoors in the AC watching the games on TV. Keen on getting some value for our money, we decided to sit in for some of the Del Potro game and see how the girls went.

Luck struck and we nabbed some seats in the shade. Kalyra sat and played on our phone, and Savannah amused herself quietly on my lap. I was impressed.

Some time later, during change of play, Savannah made some sort of noise that was barely audible above the sound of those talking around us, and a lady in front of us turned around, deathly stared at us and neighed like a horse.

I was shocked. 

I hadn’t seen her for the entire 30  minutes we had already been sitting there so she must have just walked in and one noise from our 2 year old and she was ready to make her, “Children are a pain and should not be seen in public” attitude known.

What’s your problem?” Craig and I both arced up.

She grumbled and muttered with a slightly coherent “I never took my children to events like this,” and buried her face back into her phone.

Well, your poor kids for getting in your way of a good time, Oh saintly parent.

What are you complaining about? She’s made one noise the whole time we’ve been here. You’ve just arrived and you’re not even watching the game, you’re on your phone.”

We were furious and to avoid creating a major scene – and because we knew Savannah was probably reaching her expiration point (we do know our children), we left Grump to the game.

As we walked out the usher, (aka the boss who will kick you out if you’re noisy) said,

Gee your girls did really well. They were so well behaved.”

“Thank you so much.” The snorter was too busy on her phone to see our pointed smug smiles.

You’ll come across stuffy McStuffins when you take children out in public. If my kids are bouncing off the walls then I totally respect their frustrations and concerns. Usually, they aren’t, and if they do, we step into control it pretty quick or remove them from the area.

There’s no reason children can’t attend public events and restaurants with you.

There’s a right way to do it and they can definitely be taught appropriate public manners. It’s a bit of a juggling match and a challenge, but it can be done.

Prevention strategies will help reduce the snarling comments and the loud grumbling neighs. (If you just picture them as neighing horses it will diffuse your anger and give you the giggles).

taking kids to public places

1. Get your children used to it

The best way to have children that behave well in public settings is to get them used to it, and start them young – just like we mention in our 17 tips for flying with kids.

We’ve been taking the girls since they were born, so it’s a normal thing for them to eat at cafes, or restaurants or attend public festivals and events.

2. Have your bag of goodies

Have a stash of pencils, colouring books, writing and reading books and a few small toys in your bag – make sure they’re not super noisy.

3. Visit child-friendly places

Seek out restaurants with playgrounds or kiddies corners. Attend festivals or events that have programs or areas for kids.

We found some amazing family friendly wineries, cafes and breweries in Bright and the High Country. And we picked out a few fave cafes in St Kilda on the beach. The girls could play in the sand while we sat close by enjoying a coffee.

You’ll find staff much more interactive and helpful at child-friendly places as well. I love the ones where they pick up the girls for cuddles and whisk them around the room to say hey to all the tables.

4. Plan for the right times

Go early for dinner. If you are at an event, get there when the right kids shows and entertainment is on. Leave at the time when darkness falls and the kids are over it. (I’m pretty sure you will be too!)

5. Make sure they are well fed and settled

Have a bag full of food for them, or if eating out, take the first 5 minutes to order their meals and have them delivered straight away. Settle them in before you do anything else. Get out all their toys and play things. Explain where they are.

Show them the toy/play area and let them know what they can do. Remind them how to behave. Pour them a glass of water, ask them if they need anything else, and then sit down.

6. Let them order their own meals

My Mum thought it was hilarious when she came out to dinner with 2-year-old Kalyra, who ran her finger down the menu like a food critique and chose fries for her meal. Now Savannah loves to do the same.

It’s a ritual they love to perform, and we make an effort to encourage them to order with the waitress and say please and thank you. Kalyra’s stepping up to now pay as well (so she can pocket the change). When children feel they own the experience, they are more likely to behave.

7. Talk about good social behaviour and public manners.

Remind children about appropriate behaviour in a public place and why.

Each of us needs our space and peace to enjoy our meal or entertainment. It takes a lot of time and effort and is a pain, but its worth it in the long run (Don’t we say that about every parenting job?)

8. Let them sleep in the stroller, on the chairs or on the floor.

There has been the very rare occasion that we’ve put the girls on the floor, almost under the table to sleep. Whatever works. Let them sleep and you enjoy yourself. Shame that our children are almost out of that stage.

We generally have to go next step.

9. Remove them from the area

There’s nothing like a bit of time out. If your child is slipping into meltdown mode (we experienced this at the most important temple in Bangkok ) walk out of the public space, find a tree to sit under and wait till they calm down.

Remind them of good behaviour and how the other people around them don’t want to hear the noise. It’s good for them to learn about consideration for others who share your space. Let them run around a bit if need be. Talk about the problem and find the solutions.

A good 10 minutes of quiet talk and cuddles with Savannah usually calms her down.

Grand palace Bangkok
At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

10. If all else fails give them the ipad/tablet

You know all those things you said you WOULDN’T do when you were a parent. LOL. Yeah right. Greatest 10 minutes of bliss you’ll ever have.

11. No seriously, if all else fails pack your bags and go home.

You really don’t want to disturb the peace and good times of those around you. It’s really not fun for you or your kids either. When the expiry has been reached just head for the beds!

You really shouldn’t be afraid to take your children out to public places. There are sometimes I’d be happy to crawl under the chair with the outbursts and tantrums, but we usually can get it under control quick.

We usually receive good compliments about their behaviour, even in 41 degree heat! (speaking of which, here are some tips for travelling in the heat with kids and tips for hiking with your kids)

What are your tips for taking children to public places and remaining sane?

27 thoughts on “11 Tips for Taking Children to Public Places AND Enjoying It”

  1. Great tips. Our kids have been traveling since they were very little and are very good travelers. I would have to say I think that my husband and I have probably had more meltdowns in public (Colombia, Peru, Grenada) than our kids have! I love that your family is out traveling.

  2. Great tips there. Totally agree with tip number 1. That’s why as painful and stressful it can be we still bring our two little boys with us to as many fitting restaurants and events.

    I think we’ll try number 7 cause I don’t think our eldest understands its not okay to jump on chairs or couches (cause we let him do it at home).

    Yep I use to think I’d never do number 10 either … I thought this before I had kids and yep now it’s always packed in the nappy bag for emergencies.

  3. Brilliant tips, guys! I’m not a parent, as you know. But as we are constantly travelling the world I often observe both beautifully behaved children and absolute monsters and I always find it fascinating to watch how they behave and how their parents react.

    I have to say – and being an Aussie – I hate to say it, but kids in Australia (and also the US and UK – what is it about the West?!) tend to be more badly behaved than not. I find it extremely uncomfortable watching kids throw tantrums and parents scream and yell at their crying kids in response in supermarkets and other public spaces. I personally don’t think that is acceptable – for one, the parent is embarrassing the child; kids remember things like that.

    I love your advice to move away to a quiet space and give them a cuddle. In Southeast Asia, where we’ve recently set up home, it’s the reverse – while there are definitely naughty kids, they tend to be more better behaved than not, and it’s rare to see a child screaming or disrespecting their parents. If the kids are crying their eyes out they are picked up immediately and shown that they are loved and listened to. It’s a very different way of bringing kids up, and purely from an outside observer’s perspective (not a parent of course!), it seems to work best.

    I also love your first tip. My parents took me absolutely everywhere when I was a little thing – from rock concerts to fancy restaurants, and just as you were told, Mum and Dad constantly were complimented on how well-behaved I was. It wasn’t me, it was them. Because they taught me to be that way. Yes, I did sleep everywhere, from under restaurant tables to on my dad’s lap, but even though I quietly hated it at the time and wished I was at home in my own bed, I think it taught me to be patient, adaptable and flexible.

    Enjoying watching your journey, even though you’re making me nostalgic for my own childhood spent with my folks for five years travelling around the country in a caravan. Have fun!

    1. I agree about their behaviour. The lack of respect thing bothers me a lot about Australia. AFter teaching in the South in the States I was shocked returning to the classrooms in Australia. I could not believe the way the kids spoke to the teachers. They know how to do it right in South East Asia. It is about lots of love and cuddles. It can be really hard to do this when they are in the throes of a really bad meltdown, and we don’t always get this right, but we’ve found it brings the best results. You have to acknowledge what is wrong first with them and then that opens up a safe place for them to express, feel understood and then calm down.

      I think patience, flexibility and adaptability are the keys for living a peaceful and happy life.

  4. We eat out at least twice a week with our kids. Before kids I ate out all the time and I didn’t see why that should stop just because I decided to breed. Hence why I started my own blog about eating out with kids. Your tips are perfect – I agree with every single one – even No. 11! Please keep these posts up guys, you are brilliant!!

  5. Love the article! I too believe children are not meant to be left behind as they make life so much richer! I’ve gotten those unwarranted death stares (ok and few warranted ones as well) and have learned to shrug them off and pity the person. Their children probably missed out on so much fun!

  6. What a great post. As a traveling family, we have tried to have a variety of experiences with our kids including trips to the theatre, nice restaurants, art museums etc. We have done our best to keep manners in check and always have a bag full of snacks and trinkets to entertain. On occasion, however, we have had to make a run for the door. :D. As far as your experience at the tennis match, I have discovered that sometimes there will be people that object to the very presence of children, no matter how well they behave. I call them “the haters” and I dedicated this post on my site to them. 😀 http://ow.ly/tESBJ

  7. This is an excellent article every parent with young children should read. Sometimes when I’m out and see kids misbehaving I wonder where the ‘bag of goodies’ is. I used to carry all sorts of different things around with me to distract my five when they were little.

  8. So agree with your post Caz! As I’ve not had family in Melbourne, I’ve always taken my babies..toddlers…kids everywhere with me, from the Dr to the hairdressers, cafe etc… I only recall one incident where I had to leave a cafe – the one and only public tantrum my son had as a very young toddler.. it initially took me by surprise but then realised he’d had enough, was time to leave even if it killed my coffee moment.. Pens, papers, iPads are great distractions while you are waiting for your meal to arrive.
    The other tip I would give when going out dining, is go early if you can, the restaurants are less busy and hence less of a waiting time.
    Children learn best by repetitive practice, hence why they need to go out and experience the real world.

    Love your quote: ‘If you just picture them as neighing horses it will diffuse your anger and give you the giggles’… so true

    Keep enjoying your traveloz adventures, what an amazing experience…

    1. Thanks Frenchie! Great tip. Prices can often be cheaper when you go early as well. It’s hard to cope with killed coffee moments isn’t it? It’s the only thing that gets you through sometimes

  9. Totally agree with the bag of tricks and back up food options. I take these everywhere with me, even just down to the shops. That and planning around sleep and meal times. These two main tips have helped us numerous times while travelling with our baby, who is now a very cheeky independent toddler! 🙂

  10. I remember the afternoon when my daughter — who was 9-years old at the time — had a full-on meltdown when we finally, finally… reached the Sistine Chapel while visiting the Vatican in Rome. There we were in this incredible moment and my daughter who had behaved like a champion on this 3-hour tour (one of our not-so-bright ideas) completely lost it. She plopped herself on the floor beneath one of the world’s most magnificent pieces of artwork… and cried. Loudly. What to do! I slumped next to her and put my arm around her. It worked. But thank goodness it was the last space on the tour!

    We chuckle as we look back on that now. We also laugh about how we achieved unlimited mileage out of our 4 children, (ages 9, 11, 13, & 15 at the time), by promising them Gelato at the end of each adventure as we romped around Europe for 5 years.

    I love your blog. Your posts usually make my eyes well with (happy) tears as I love how well you live life to the fullest. Your family inspires me!!

    1. Thank you so much Sharon! Gelato will always work a treat. We sometimes resort to that option as well. Never thought I would, but sometimes you just have to. What a moment for you!!! OF all places to melt down. It happened to us in the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It was awful

  11. I think the hardest thing as parents is to realize when your kid is just “done.” Either it sneaks up on us or we really, REALLY want to ignore that it is the reason cause we are enjoying wherever we are at. But like you said, sometimes you just have to pack it up and go home. We have done that plenty of times. We are also big fans of the “walk it off” and distraction methods. Sometimes your child may just need a change of scenery or to see something new. My husband and I tag team at historical sights so we can both see what we came so far to see, but also keep the kids moving and entertained (they are little) while we are there. And yes, the iPhone comes out more than I would like to admit at restaurants. But sometimes mama just wants to eat!!! And at historical sights I had my phone to my 4 year old and tell him to take pictures for me. He loves it!

  12. These are good tips for parents. I think most couples with children don’t travel because they feel that it is pretty hard to bring the kids while traveling and it is hard to leave them behind.

    1. For sure and it is pretty hard, but I definitely think it’s more doable than most people realize. I do understand why a lot of people don’t want to deal with the hassle of it. I think it just depends on your desires and priorities

  13. LOL – I love #10. I try to hold out as long as possible before handing over the iphone, but sometimes it’s just what needs to be done!

  14. What a great post! We’ve always taken our son when we travel, go out to eat, go to events etc (well, not always – but often!). It really comes down to knowing your child and their temperament, and being prepared to help your child deal with excitement, boredom, stimulation and other feelings through attention, hugs, toys, and the big guns (iPad/phone/tablet!)…. and finally, by leaving when it’s clear that they’re ready to go.

  15. I must admit that I was one of those who got frustrated when a noisy child would ruin an experience–particularly on a plane. That is, until I traveled with my 2-year old niece! It’s tough work and most frustrating to the parent. Now, I’m a mom myself and just dreading those meltdowns.

    We’ve been lucky so far. We don’t travel as much as you do but Amelie, my 15-month old, has fared pretty well on the 5 trips we’ve taken by plane. The most she’s done was crawl on the plane (just our row, btw) for about 2 hours before she settled down for a nap. You are right–it gets better when they get used to something. I read your tips for flying before we first flew. Thanks for sharing them!

    1. No worries Kim! Your perspective certainly changes once you have kids!! Your daughter will grow to be a fantastic traveller. GEtting them used to it from an early age is key!

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