For my wife and I, a highlight of every Disney trip is choosing which restaurants we will eat at. There are so many great choices in the parks and at the resorts. Like many couples with children, over the years we took advantage of the various child watching services provided at the resorts so Mom and Dad could have some alone time.
Whenever we travel to WDW with our kids, we like to have Fodor’s Guide with us to help us get the most enjoyment out of our trip. But we also like to take advantage of the many opportunities at WDW to teach our children how to act respectfully in public.
But we were sure to bring our children with us to many upscale WDW restaurants when they were very young. We wanted them to enjoy themselves with us, and we wanted to teach them proper etiquette. Our 3-year old twins ate with us at The California Grill, Flying Fish Cafe, Akershus, San Angel Inn, and more.
At age 4, we had a wonderful vacation with the four of us, plus my wife’s parents. The kids joined us for all meals, including The Hollywood Brown Derby, Crystal Palace, Mama Melrose’s, among others. We wanted our children to have fun, especially at character meals. But it was important to us that they understood how to conduct themselves in a restaurant.
It quickly became clear to them that they could laugh and play with Piglet and Tigger at The Crystal Palace when they came to our table. But in between, they were to sit in their chairs, keep their voices at a reasonable level, and eat their food politely.
We love our children, and we feel blessed that they have always been well behaved in public with just a little coaxing from us.
Over the coming years, others often remarked to us how polite our children were when we were out to eat. Sometimes we even heard this from complete strangers. I attribute a lot of their politeness in public to having exposed them to upscale restaurants when they were young, and teaching them that it was unacceptable to run around the table like the kid on the other side of the restaurant.
Here are 7 etiquette tips we taught our children at restaurants around WDW from the age of 3.
- Ask for a food item to be passed. Do not reach across the table.
- Follow good manners. Eat with your mouth closed, and use a fork or spoon. Not your hands.
- Place the napkin on your lap. This had the added benefit of making it hard for them to get up without dropping the napkin on the floor. It encourages them to stay seated.
- Always say please and thank you to the waiter or waitress. We also encouraged them to order on their own once we helped them pick out their meal.
- Stay seated. If you run around, you might make the service drop the food plate. And it is mean to other guests if you are running around them.
- Don’t yell. People in a restaurant want to relax. It is impolite and distracting to other people if you are yelling or crying.
- Don’t play with your utensils. If you make a mistake and drop your spoon or fork, it’s okay. We will get you a new one. But if you are horsing around, you don’t get it back when you drop it.
We never once felt that our children were robbed of vacation fun by being polite in a Disney restaurant. They got to chase coconuts at ‘Ohana. They had a parade with Piglet at The Crystal Palace. They met Goofy, Minnie, and Mickey at Chef Mickey’s, 1900 Park Fair, and more. And they got to eat their favorite foods, as well as some new ones which they had never seen before.
They also had more than one waiter or waitress stop to tell them how well behaved they were being. If I’m not mistaken, they may have won a free dessert or two because of it.
The experience of being in fancy restaurants, ordering off the menus, and trying new foods was beneficial for our kids. All parents are harsh critics, and sure, we wish our kids were less picky about some of the foods they eat. But the truth is they are a lot more willing to try new foods than are most kids their age. Challenging them early paid off.
Going on vacation with your children is not a vacation from parenting. Challenge your children. Have fun with it. You will be glad you did.