Shall we meet for dinner at a restaurant? This is the question that every parent with young children dreads! Restaurant eating can be fraught with danger when you have little people with you. So we have assembled our top tips on how to survive the ordeal of restaurant eating with young children, relatively unscathed.
If possible, try to be the one that picks the restaurant. Then you can select somewhere you are familiar with, and that you know is friendly for your children. If you can’t pick the venue, then at least pick the time you dine. Try to book an early seating so that the effects of the witching hour don’t kick in partway through your meal.
If you haven’t been there before, research the restaurant ahead of time. Some restaurants have a ban on young children dining, so check that out first. Then, try to find out if they are child friendly: is it a family restaurant, do they have a highchair (if your child is of that age). Also, try to find out what they menu is like and if they have anything that your kids will eat. Armed with all the right information, you will be prepared and know what to expect.
Before you leave for the restaurant, have a conversation with your little ones so they know what to expect, and what is expected of them.
Restaurant does not equal fast food. So, make sure that you have a way to pass the time between being seated and walking out the door to go home. Eating the actual meal will only distract young children for a short while, so it’s best to have a bag of tricks with you. Some really good things to bring are colouring, books to read, puzzle books to complete, small toys or even audio books. You can also play simple games at the table like I-Spy, Spot all the Yellow Things, or Group Stories (where each table guest adds a line to the story as it goes on).
It seems funny to bring food to a place where they serve food. But it can save a lot of heartache (and money) if you have a few snacks on hand that you know your child will eat. This can be great if there is nothing on the menu that they will enjoy, the meals take a while to come out, or the meal that does come out for your child is a bit of a surprise. If you don’t need the emergency snacks, just take them back home. But it’s great to have the option there. Something like our Goodbyn Snack Box or Bumkins Snack Bags are perfect to stash in your handbag.
We know how hard it can be for small children to sit still. But don’t let them run around the restaurant causing havoc. Respect the other diners and try to keep the noise down. Request a table in the corner, not in the middle of the other diners. Don’t be afraid to discipline your child if it is required.
If it is one of the first times you have dined out with your little ones, then do not order a 10-course degustation menu that will take hours to consume! Try to start small with a main, and possibly dessert. Also, be prepared to leave before the other dinner guests if it gets too much for the kids.
The best laid plans can fly out the window in a second, but hopefully our top tips make it slightly easier to manage restaurant eating with young children!