Monday, July 22, 2024
The Parents' Voice

Eating out – with the kiddos

Eating out with little ones can be like a marathon. It can be stressful and honestly something you want to avoid. When our kids were little we definitely prepared a bag of tricks to have successful meals out. Here are some tips we used to use to try and enjoy the experience of dining out.

  • 1) When choosing a restaurant, choose wisely. Choose somewhere that has a child friendly atmosphere, where some noise from your little ones will be welcomed and not bothersome. Also, think of a restaurant that delivers the food in a timely fashion. Consider the children’s menu before you choose a restaurant so that you’re sure to find something that your child will like as well as something you’re willing to feed them.
  • 2) Pick the right time to go out to dinner, go before they’re tired and hangry (hungry/angry). It’s wise to either pack little snacks (like cheerios or fruit) if you aren’t going to order a quick appetizer, or choose a restaurant that has something to snack on at the table while you wait.
  • 3) Now how do we entertain them? So many choices. I recently experienced a restaurant that provided the kids with a little ball of dough when we sat down at the table. Seriously, this was our best restaurant experience ever. We were there for almost two hours without having to get up and walk around once. Little ball of dough, big deal right? BIG DEAL! It was awesome, so smart, of course it made sense for the restaurant since they made their own tortillas, but I got to thinking – playdough. Playdough is easily portable and makes only a little bit of mess (the pre-packaged playdough already comes in smaller quantities perfect for this.) You can buy the really small containers at Halloween. Lots of restaurants provide colouring or you can bring your own (having a notepad and pencil case on hand is very handy), any kind of toy that can be played at the table card games, special toys/games that only come out at special occasions are also key for this type of outing. This is also a great time to play engaging games with them such as I spy, take turns discussing your day or other topics you haven’t had a chance to discuss. Another hit is I spy type books or games, these are easy to tote and can help pass the time quickly.
  • 4) Restaurant outings are a great opportunity to teach your children manners when they are eating somewhere other than home. You can teach them how to order their own drink and meal from the waiter/waitress, ensure they are polite by using manners. It’s also a great time to discuss being kind in case they don’t like the taste of the meal they get. Another neat idea was to meal share, everyone order different things and share it amongst family members.
  • 5) One of the best tips I think is, ask for the bill to come at the same time as your food. That way you can make a quick exit if things start to go south.
  • You may notice that I left the use of technology off of this list. This is often something that we fall back on. However, when your children are on ipads or phones they miss out on some valuable family time. Children need to practice having conversations with others, ordering their own meal, using manners at the table and behaving appropriately – all of these can be practiced while dining out. Maybe you can reserve technology use for those very long dining out experiences?

Hopefully these tips are some help to you on your next dinner outing.

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