Tips for dining out with young children…
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Dining out with young children can go one of many ways. There are meals that we have really enjoyed and those that we just cannot wait to leave. We tend to prefer eating out at breakfast time or lunch time. For us, there is more chance of us enjoying our meals. Evening meals tend to be more of a challenge. It also helps if the establishment you are visiting is child friendly. Nice restaurants in my mind are best kept for those rare ‘date nights’. Oh how I long for one of those. Here are our tips. If you have any of your own, please add them in the comments below.
- Appropriate time. Don’t go when the kids are hungry! Consider that it takes time to choose from the menu and for the kitchen to make the food. Book a table around 30 – 40mins before the kids usually eat. As a bonus most places are quieter at these times as most adult only parties eat later than when kids do.
- Have devices as back up. I know they can be a miracle worker in some situations, for example the doctors surgery and food shopping. But I think it’s sad when a family meal turns silent as everyone is busy on their phones. They may seem like a good idea and temporarily keep the kids quiet but a family meal out is an excellent time to interact with each other and for children to learn important social skills. Talk to them about their day, what do they want to do tomorrow etc. Although sometimes, I agree – anything for a quiet life!
- Do a little research before heading out. Check their website or phone them up. Are they family friendly? Do they have highchairs? Do they have a children’s menu? Do they have baby change facilities? You will find many places have a small play area – great for while you are waiting for food.
- Don’t expect the meal to be like when adults dine alone. Be prepared to be the entertainer, read stories whilst waiting for food, play noughts and crosses, guess the picture etc and walking around the restaurant with your toddler. There is a difference between the noise of children enjoying themselves and children being rowdy and naughty. Toddlers naturally like to explore and are more likely to be well behaved if you embrace that curiosity. If you aspire to unrealistic expectations of a quiet reserved meal then you will be disappointed.
- Take a backpack with you with colouring in pencils, paper, small book/toy etc.
- Don’t go it alone if you are worried about coping and the behaviour of your children. Take support – partner, family or friend. Quite often children respond better to the discipline of other family members or friends.
- Most of all try to enjoy it.