Children and Dining out
Taking your children out to a restaurant and having a good time as a family can be a contradiction in terms. Often little ones get bored and want to find ways to entertain themselves which can lead to them disturbing other customers and embarrassing you. Below are five tips on how to control the situation and enjoy the evening out as a family. Everybody is different and all may not apply to your situation but hopefully some will be helpful.
Let Everyone Know What Is Expected
Life is busy but if you’re going out to eat take a few minutes to sit your children down and explain to them what is expected. Explain that they are to do as instructed, stay in their seats and in general conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. Very young children won’t understand but even toddlers will get the message if you follow through with negative consequences when necessary. Explain what’s going to happen if they don’t follow the rules. Every family is different with consequences being age appropriate. Truthfully it may take more than one time out and about to end up with well behaved children but you have to start somewhere.
Pick a child friendly establishment where the wait time has a reputation for being short. It’s unfair to expect young children to sit a long time in anticipation of a meal without acting up. If appropriate let the youngsters have a say in where you’re going to eat. Give them a few suitable choices and take a vote. Let them know that although there are rules the outing is meant to be a good time.
Many restaurants offer crayons and other items to entertain children. But bring along items with which your little ones can play quietly or even read a story in a low voice while you wait. For older children engage them in conversation while the food is being prepared. It’s the perfect time to catch up on everyone’s activities. Ask questions about school, friends or any problems they have. You can listen as a family and offer suggestions on how situations can be improved. Sometimes youngsters who clam up at home will talk more freely in another setting.
You don’t want the youngsters to stuff themselves with unhealthy foods but you also want them to enjoy themselves. Let them decide what they would like and suggest a salad or soup before the meal. This will help fill them up and perhaps cut down on how much undesirable items they will consume. You can make suggestions like baked chicken but don’t be surprised if they bee line it for hamburgers and fried chicken fingers. Often the serving size will be well beyond what they can comfortably consume so get a take home box and put some of the food into before they begin to eat. This will help teach them about portion size and still allow them to enjoy one of their favorite foods.
Don’t Over Stay
When everyone is finished it’s time to exit right. While you may want to linger over coffee and talk to your mate it probably won’t happen with the youngsters becoming bored. You’re better off leaving while the leaving is good. Gather everyone up, praise them if appropriate, pay and go home once the final crumb has been picked and last sip slurped. You and yours can always enjoy a glass of wine or cup of tea together when everyone is in bed.
The important thing is to make family outings, including dining, enjoyable. You want to connect as a family. If you have a few failures consider them learning experiences and try again.
1. How to dine out with kids … and enjoy it! (ages 2 to 4) | BabyCenter
2. Kids Eat Free Restaurants – Where Do Kids Out to Eat Free