The other evening my husband and I took our two young girls out for an evening meal. While they didn’t eat a tremendous amount they did enjoy themselves, we got to eat our meal and they didn’t disrupt the other diners so overall a success I would say! Many other parents have mentioned to us feeling the need to skip meals out with family or friends or feeling excluded from functions due to having young children. By following some of these tips we hope they are able to have the occasional meal out without the stress.
1. Choose the right time. If your child usually has dinner at 6pm then find a restaurant that opens earlier than that so your child’s meal arrives close to normal time. This will help to prevent your child getting overly hungry.
2. Let them know what is expected, explain what going to a restaurant entails and what you expect them to do. Gently reinforce this and also role model this behaviour. It is worth starting small, if your child has never eaten out before; try just having morning or afternoon tea at a local cafe. Then perhaps move onto brunch or lunch when your child is likely to be less tired than the evening.
3. Be Prepared. Pack a bag full of items that will entertain the kids like travel games, drawing books, playdoh, anything that entertains your children.
4. Set yourself up for success. If you know that your kids are usually tired, unwell or not in the mood, skip it. A failed dinner out leaves bad memories for everyone- making nobody want to try again.
6. You know your child, if your child is a very fussy eater then taking them somewhere that doesn’t serve foods they typically eat may not be wise. Many places will have the option of a “kids menu” but even if they don’t some places will agree to split a main meal between two children or serve an entree as a child’s main meal. Call in advance, if a place isn’t willing to do any of these things or have a kids menu it is worth considering going somewhere else.
7. Adjust your expectations. This is unlikely to be a leisurely two hour, four course meal. Plan on 45 minutes to an hour even if you wish it was longer.
8. Does the restaurant have any clear areas you could sit near? For example the restaurant we went to the other day does functions on occasion and had a dance floor which was not in use, well until our girls started dancing to the slow background music that is!
9. Consider different places, a lot of bigger shopping centres will have a few restaurants around the outside that open up onto a common area which will give children some space. Here on the Central Coast there is a playground area which is almost surrounded by cafes and restaurants.
10. Highchairs, it is worth booking a table and asking for a highchair in advance.
What are your top tops for successfully eating out with children?