46 answers

Do You Let Your Kids Order for Themselves?

When you go out to eat, do your kids decide on their own what to eat/drink? My kids are 5 and 3 and we are trying to let them decide what they want rather than have us choose for them. And we also have them tell the waiter/waitress what they would like. Do others do this? From the point of view of those mom's who waitress, is it annoying to have a little kid (sometimes very slowly) order their own food?

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Thanks for all the great replies! I'm glad to know that many others are also trying to get their kids accustomed to politely ordering at a restaurant.

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I was a waitress in high school and college and it never bothered me when the kids ordered (they were cute)! I think that's why I always had my daughter order. I liked to see her ordering with manners..."may I please have the XYZ"?? She also got in the habit early of treating people in service industries with respect and thankfulness.

5 moms found this helpful

I think it's great! I have been a food server for 20yrs and I think it's so cute when they order for them selves. They look so proud at the end of their ordering and they are more apt to eating it all when they get it because it was what they wanted and not what we thought they should eat.

2 moms found this helpful

We will let him pick b/w two "okay" choices on the menu and absolutely let him order for himself. He's 2.5 so sometimes we have to translate for him, but we've never had a server roll their eyes or get frustrated. Then again, we take him to places where kids are welcome, so I guess that would make a difference!

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I was a waitress in high school and college and it never bothered me when the kids ordered (they were cute)! I think that's why I always had my daughter order. I liked to see her ordering with manners..."may I please have the XYZ"?? She also got in the habit early of treating people in service industries with respect and thankfulness.

5 moms found this helpful

My dd was always a bit shy when the spotlight was on her and this was great practice for her with that issue and with manners and waiting her turn, appropriate tone of voice, volume, etc. We ate out ALOT when she was young at sit down places..alot of Applebees, Red Lobster, other family type places etc. We did alot of meal sharing, as she never much liked the kids choices, so she would start by saying, "My mom and I are sharing, so we would love an extra plate, please!"..hilarious!

But she would order dressing on the side, minus onions, blah blah. No ice in her Apple juice, etc. She got pretty good at it all, as she and I are both pretty finicky (and tip well if its all correct!). Now at age 16, she orders great and has wonderful manners in such situations. She knows how to get what she ordered without being nasty and orders it in the least complicated manner to make things easier on the waitstaff and cooks.

Its a great skill to empower your children with! So many other lessons are learned here..with the manners elements, etc. I would much rather see children involved in the process and using appropriate restaurant manners (even tho we always ate out alot, it was still a treat and excellent behavior was expected...). I heartily HATE seeing wild children standing in a booth, crawling on the floor, yelling and screaming...as parents attempt to just eat over the craziness. I paid the money to eat out too and don't want to hear and witness all of that. This ordering aspect is just another piece of the manners needed for being in a restaurant, IMO. Good for you for starting them young with the process!

3 moms found this helpful

I think it's great! I have been a food server for 20yrs and I think it's so cute when they order for them selves. They look so proud at the end of their ordering and they are more apt to eating it all when they get it because it was what they wanted and not what we thought they should eat.

2 moms found this helpful

My son is almost five. He's been ordering for himself since he was three. When we are out to dinner, he usually asks me what I want and then orders for both of us when the server comes. :) He noticed that my stepdad does this and so he likes to do it to.

He's become quite the restaurant patron these days. He asks for details about items on the menu or asks to hear the specials etc. It cracks me up.

2 moms found this helpful

I let my kids tell them what they want. My oldest is 9 and can order down to the last detail where my youngest is 3 and usually will say "I want x" and points to the picture. I have never had a waitress be annoyed with it or appeared to be annoyed with it.

2 moms found this helpful

We not only do this... but in certain restaurants (like dim sum or indian where we know the staff and they've treated him like a little man for ages)... kiddo pays with the debit card (although we sign).

From a waitress point of view I always *loved* it when kids would order for themselves as long as :

- parents weren't yelling at them (then I'd be the one saying 'take your time')
- they actually knew what they wanted (some parents push them to order but they don't know what they want)
- they were polite (some kids use snarky or bossy "fetch that for me scum" kinds of voice. They don't have to say please, but snottiness at any age is unattractive.


- lobster, anything "market price", etc... when my son is ordering it's after we've negotiated what he's allowed to order.

2 moms found this helpful

My 6 and 3 year olds order for themselves (pre approved by me of course) and I've never had a waitress get snippy or impatient. He/she usually looks over at me after each item to make sure I nod yes and if the oldest tries to sneak one by (like Sprite instead of Chocolate milk) I can just fix it right then.

2 moms found this helpful

My kids are 4 and 8 years old. I have been letting them order themselves since they were younger.
Of course I don't let them order dessert for dinner.
I let them decide what they want to eat... other than that.
My kids know what they want, what they like, what they will eat or not.
And for any drinks... my kids know that NO soda or soft drinks are allowed... but they can have fruit punch diluted with half water. They tell the waitress that. The Waitresses KNOW that this is commonly requested by parents... they are also NOT bothered, by a child, ordering their food themselves. My kids have received many compliments, by the Waitress, for doing so and they are always patient.

My kids know what they can have or not, or they always... ask us... if not sure. We don't commonly let them have stuff like 'fruit punch' (which is commonly sold here in restaurants), but when we are out, it is a treat for them. They know that.

all the best,

2 moms found this helpful

We do what you do; let the kids order for themselves, but help them out when needed. They love the opportunity to do so. The only exception is if we're someplace that doesn't really have a kids' menu or the food is exotic. Then we pull rank. Don't want any whining that the food looks "weird" or "what's that?!" kinda stuff going on. So we just pick what we think they'll like under those circumstances.

I have yet to meet a waitress/waiter who thought it was annoying. They've all been very good and helpful. But of course, we try to purposely go to family friendly restaurants most of the time, anyway. :)

2 moms found this helpful

yes, we always let them order. the thing is as soon as we get the menu, we look and decide so when the waitress comes we already know what we and the kids are having.
my kids know the rules though, no soda, so they ask for either apple juice, lemonade or water. plus, my kids like to share so they get different dishes. but everything is already decided by the time the waitress comes.

1 mom found this helpful

Yes. I have learned to trust my son--not me. When he orders what he wants--he always eats it! Even if that means a breakfast burrito at dinnertime (gag, gag). But, after all, it's HIS stomach! (And really, my kid eats pretty much anything--not picky at all!)

1 mom found this helpful

Yes, with guidance.
We always discuss the menu prior to the server taking orders. Even if we order for them, we discuss what they'd like to eat, what is healthy as a side item, what is off limits, etc. Now that our kids are older (9 and 12) they do the actual ordering (and have for a few years), including any special requests (my daughter doesn't like any sauce on her ribs, for ex.).
Also, our son is at the age where he could order from the adult menu OR the kids' menu in a lot of places. So we discuss how much food he will receive with which order, whether it will be enough, the pricing, etc. If he is really hungry, he CAN eat an entire adult entree plus sides. If he isn't, a kids' burger is enough. Some places serve enough chicken strips with a kids meal for 2 kids. Some don't. So it affects ordering off of adult or kids' menu for him.

We taught them early how to speak plainly and use their manners... including having reached a decision by the time the server is ready to take orders! I HATE sending them back b/c we haven't decided yet. Most places, we already know the menu well enough that only laziness or rudeness keeps us from knowing what we want to order.

Also, we teach them about tipping, about asking for refills, etc. Only if the place is really busy or really LOUD does my husband speak for them. It's like anything else... it takes practice. Start them when they are able. :)

1 mom found this helpful

We will let him pick b/w two "okay" choices on the menu and absolutely let him order for himself. He's 2.5 so sometimes we have to translate for him, but we've never had a server roll their eyes or get frustrated. Then again, we take him to places where kids are welcome, so I guess that would make a difference!

1 mom found this helpful

my 4yo and 7yo order for themselves from the selections that their father and i tell them they can choose from. i start having mine order on their own when they are quite young, i def quickly repeat if they are so young it's hard to understand. my 4yo is on the shy side, but that's not an excuse for me, there are many situations in life that he will have to learn that it's rude to not speak when spoken to - and this is just one more way for him to learn to speak up. i was a server in high school and college, and the only thing that really annoyed me with kids was when parents would let them run around the restaurant - annoying and very dangerous. my kids know that when the server comes to the table, it's time for everyone to be quiet and take turns ordering, don't just start shouting out what you want - my almost 2yo will be ordering her food soon!

1 mom found this helpful

I have always done that and now that they are 9, 13, and 15 I make it a game to see who can figure out the tip the fastest. THey have to do it in their heads and it has to be between 15% and 18%.

1 mom found this helpful

I think this is great to build independence.........although with guidance. Remember you are still paying and your kids should know limits nutritionally and financially. Help them while allowing them to feel somewhat in control.

1 mom found this helpful

My daughter is 3 and she has started piping up when the waitress take our order - we just ask her what she wants and she lets us know (it is easy because she generally wants the same thing every time). She has also started throwing in things like "And pickles!" (when getting a burger) and "Chocolate milk too!". She is very social and outgoing and she seems to be taking her cues from us, as far as speaking up and letting us and them know what she would like, and saying please and thank you. I think it helps build her confidence and feel very grown up.

Also, sometimes I take her to an indoor playland near our home that has snacks for sale (applesauce cups and juice boxes and stuff). If she wants something, I let her pick it out, then give her the money to take it to the counter and pay for it herself (I'm less than 15 feet away and watch her the whole time). She's gotten to the point where she insists on doing it herself and doesn't even want me standing near her.

None of the waitresses, etc. who have been on the receiving end seem to mind - especially at the indoor playland, which is catered to kids. They seem to think it is cute, and appreciate that we are trying to teach our child good manners and social skills.

Now having a little kid answer the phone who can't just get their parent on the phone or take a message - or who is the outgoing message on the answering machine and I can't understand what they are saying - THAT'S annoying!

1 mom found this helpful

I give my daughter (shes 5 ) choices when we go out to eat. I leave out the choices I dont want her eating. If she had her choice, I would be paying $4 for a bowl of macaroni every restaurant we went to. Shes also not allowed to drink soda, so she choses milk or water. If she would, I would love for her to order herself, but whenever the waitress asks her, she just gets shy and looks at me to do it. :)

1 mom found this helpful

I let my girls choose, always have since they started making their own decisions. (Mine are also 5 and 3) Whether they order on their own is up to them. My oldest gets shy when put on the spot. But if either wanted to, I would let them.

1 mom found this helpful

I let DS pick, but I order.

When I let him order, I'll make sure that he knows ahead of time what he wants so there's no waiting. I've been a waitress, and the annoyance level is around parents who don't interject if their kids are taking several minutes to decide or change their minds.

1 mom found this helpful

From a food server: it is only annoying when they can't speak clearly yet or have no idea what they want.

From a mom: I gave them 2-4 choices to choose from and when I knew they could speak clearly and the server wasn't slammed, I had them order. It helps teach the social skills they need when they are in public.

1 mom found this helpful

We let our DD choose, but she's usually a little shy and too soft spoken when we want her to tell the waitress. She'll holler at their backs though. We usually just stick with letting her pick then ordering it for her. Saves time and give her the pride hearing us tell the servers what she wants, that we actually heard her and value her choice.

Usually I let them decide what they want, and than I order for all of us.

My 11 year old has no problem ordering for herself. She will even ask questions and ask for certain toppings on or off her hamburger. She is about 50-50 adult vs. kids menu depending on how hungry she is and how big the portions. DD, who is 8, is shy. She doesn't like to order herself. Sometimes we encourage her to, and sometimes we order for her. She is vegetarian, too. So sometimes her order/request is a little more complex. Because we see going out to eat as a treat and privilege, we let our kids order what they want, as long as we are reasonably sure they will eat it.

I always let my son pick his own food when eating out - after all, it's a treat to eat out!

When he was a toddler I read the kid's menu to him, he selected what he wanted and I ordered. As he got older, he began to order for himself. Now at 14, I tell him what I want and he orders for me.

It is part of teaching our children manners and social interaction. Just tip your waitresses well, and I promise it will be okay!!!

I think it's an excellent skill to teach your kids; my daughter has ordered since she was quite young, and has wonderful skills conversing with adults. Just one caveat - if you are at the sort of place where you are in line, with others behind you waiting their turn (ie: an ice cream counter, bakery, fast food, etc.) please don't get into line until your children have decided! There is nothing more irritating than waiting in line for awhile, then to be behind some family with several kids who wait until it's their turn to order, then mum is like "okay, so what would you like?" and each kid takes 5 minutes to make up their mind - while my family is waiting, waiting, waiting.... I always made sure my kids had their minds set before we were up to order so we didn't inconvenience others (which is also a very good skill to teach your children!).

i will ask my daughter what she would like off her kids menu. also time to time she likes to tell the waiter/waitress. they always seem to ask her what she would like to eat then look to see if thats ok with me. i usually just ask them to bring her food out quickly since she eats slower then my husband and i do.
other times ill order for her after she tells me what she wants. say if we goto dennys ill say jaiden do you want chicken... yes.. ok would you like fruit or fries with it... fruit? ok would like like a juice, milk, water or sprite (she will get a sprite only when we go out to eat since its a treat). then i will proceed to order for her. its their job to be patient with their customer and as irritating at it may be some days they just deal with it. i have been in that position too only it was like an 8 year old little girl who was hispanic ordering for her parents whom didnt speak english. to me that is more irritiating then letting my 3 year old daughter order what she would like to eat.

yes, i think it's great to have kids decide and order for themselves. if you have restrictions, just work that out before the server comes to take the order so you don't keep her waiting while you hash out 'no honey, i told you no soda' while she's trying to take the order.
as an old hand in restaurants (and i work occasionally in a local bistro that i love) i can tell you that most of us enjoy working with littles whose parents are helping them achieve independence this way. but you should be sensitive to the servers situation too. if you can see she's slammed, be prepared to step in and help out if your little is spinning in circles. you won't damage their psyches by doing so. for the most part, though, professional servers are delighted to see small children learning how to behave appropriately in restaurants, which includes selecting and ordering their food.

I think it's totally fine it just depends on the age. My 31/2 year old is a picky eater and knows what he'll eat and when so if we go out I ask him what he want's to eat or drink and he tells the waitress. Now my 1 1/2 not so much. He'll eat anything I usually order for him. Sometimes off the kids menu and sometimes me and him will split (because he just loves whatever mommy's eating lol). I'd think it's fine though (as long as you've already decided what's going to be ordered) to let them tell the waitress themselves.
ps* my good friend waitresses at a ruby tuesdays and she said it was totally fine by her and she actually thought it was cute.

Yes - when my kids were young I let them order for themselves. It offers independency and increases their self-esteem at a young age. It makes them feel important like there a "big" kid. As long as you monitor by giving them the "kids" menu, you will still have the control yet are relinquishing the choices to them. You can also help them with their selection by asking their opinion as they narrow it down between two choices as well as teaching them how to order. This offers guidance, support and increases the bond between parents and children at a young age.

When we go out, it is normally to the same restaurant until they closed a month ago. We would always get one of 2 or 3 servers. (We have been going there since I was pregnant with my daughter, so they have seen both of my kids "grow up" at almost 5 and almost 3) The servers would normally ask the kids what they wanted, so the kids would tell them. They would ask me or my husband what to drink in case we weren't letting them have soda. They did this once the children were able to communicate clearly which was about 2 for each of them

I let my boys (10, 7 1/2 &4) order for themselves as long as they know what they want and the restaurant is not busy or crowded.
It can be annoying if the kid doesn't want to do it and the parent is making them and you have a million things going on.

I think the 3 yo is a little young to be ordering. When my kids were little we would ask them to make their choices, and we would need to approve them. Arround age 5, we started letting them tell the waitress/waiter their order. I think its a good skill to teach them.

We love the places with kids menus with pictures on them. We always talk about it first and when the server comes, they tell them what they want. My kids are 7 and 4. All of the servers we have had are very patient and interact well with the kids. they don't seem to mind. and because we talked about it first, it doesn't seem to take longer than the adult making a decision.

Yes and no. We give them a few things to choose from that are acceptible for them to eat that they will like and they can pick from those. We let them order for themselves most of the timebut we'll order sometimes We use a lot of prompting to get them to order sometimes. It does depend on how busy the restaurant is and how hungry we are.

I do sometimes. Now that they are 7 and 10, I make them order all the time.

My kids are 7, 5, and 3 and we have always had them order for themselves. So yes :).

Yes, I let my son who is 5 order his food. We are teaching him to be polite and also to choose different foods other than chicken nuggets. We discuss what are possible options, then he get's a kick out of telling the waiter/waitress what he wants. He feels independent, like a big boy.

There was this one time I was shocked when he order something different on the menu and then asked for mandarin oranges and cherries in a cup please! They didn't sell cherries in a cup, but the waitress thought that he was so cute, she made it happen.

DS just turned 5. He does not order for himself but we discuss what he would like. Since we never order off the children's menu and we usually share, it does require more negotiation.

My daughter will pick her food or drink she doesn't say it to the waitress yet just because she doesn't feel comfortable doing it. I used to be a waitress when I was younger and it never bothered me when kids ordered for themselves, I've had 3 yr olds order. I think it's darling, but I've always liked kids. I used to joke with them and ask them if they want spinach with it or something... it was cute to me.

I always do. I think that's why kids menu's have pictures next to the items. I remember being a child and being petrified to talk to adults. I think even this little bit of social interaction teaches kids manners and how to speak to adults (ie, please, thank you). Big deal if they take a while. I usually am still deciding when the waiter/waitress comes for our order. If he is totally indecisive I ask for a few moments just like I would myself if I weren't ready to order. But as with everything my son does know that the parents have power of veto.

Yes when they want to, mine are 10, 8 and 6.

yes, as soon as they can talk they start ordering. my 2 year old likes to decide whether or not to get milk, water or tea, as soon as my oldest could read the appetizer menu has peaked her interest and she does order for herself.When she couldnt read id read her her choices and shed choose from them........and yes they tell the waiter themeselves, its their job to take food orders from all sized patrons. I was a waitress for awhile and i was fine with it, and as long as the waiters are nice they get tipped well. Personally alot of my tip is based on the service of my children

My kids order for themselves, they are 7 & 5!

Yes, I would let them order for themselves-they had to say please and thank you-I didn't care how long it took-it's good experience-the table was kinda messy when we left-5 kids ages 7 and under-I was "the spiller". To overcompensate, I would often stack the plates and leave a really big tip.

my kids are 14, 11 and 8. we ask them what they want before the server gets there to take our order and then we let them tell the server what they want. when they were smaller, we gave them the option of 2 items and told them to pick one (grilled cheese with fruit or chicken nuggets and fries or whatever their 2 favs are). also, unless their meal comes with a drink included in the price, they know that we all drink water or it's more than $10 added to the bill that we don't need right now. good luck!

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