I think that it is important for children to eat out and learn how to behave in a restaurant setting. Waiting for food, eating something not made in their own kitchen, learning to ask for what they would like to have politely, etc. Having said this, it is a lot of work to take children to restaurants. Here are some tips that I have for you if you are nervous about this type of venture…
- Go to a “family-friendly” restaurant. This one is pretty obvious. You need to go places where you know there will be other families and hopefully no one hoping for a quiet, romantic evening.
- Look for “kids eat free” nights. These nights are great because there will be other families and children there so you will not have to worry about noise as much as on a night when you may be the only family in the restaurant.
- Talk to your children on the way to the restaurant. Build the opportunity up and let your children know your expectations. On our way to a restaurant we always let our children know that they have a special opportunity to eat at a restaurant today and we need them to remember to be patient when waiting for food and to ask politely for what they need/want.
- Call your children’s order in on the way to the restaurant. Give your children the option between 3 choices and once they have chosen either call the restaurant on the way there or order as soon as you walk in the door. This way your kids food will come out quickly and once they are eating they will be happy campers!
- Take veggies and dip with you. I try to take cucumber and carrot sticks with dip along with me so that if there is a bit of a wait for food my kids can start eating veggies while they wait. You could also take fruit for after the meal in case they finish their meal before you and are still hungry. Grapes, blueberries, and melon are great options.
- Take your own plates, cups, and cutlery. Personally I like the Skip Hop brand. I always take a bag from home with three plastic plates, three sets of my children’s cutlery, and straw cups for the twins with water or milk in them. . When food arrives at the table it is usually very hot and on a warm china plate. These are dangerous for babies and toddlers. I portion the food out gradually onto my boys plates from home so that it can cool and they can safely eat it. Also, if by chance the plate drops then at least you are not breaking a china plate. Using their own cutlery is safer than the large cutlery often found at restaurants and using straw/lidded cups prevents spills or chipped teeth from glasses.
One last tip…Make the restaurant time more about the experience of being in the restaurant than the food. Your children may eat well in a new environment or they may eat poorly but at least you are teaching them what it means to “eat out”!
Until next time…stay healthy!