Dining out with children can seem like a daunting challenge. You worry about whether they will sit politely or if they are going to run amok. With a few simple steps you can have a fun evening dining out with your children without too much stress.
Stick to your routine.
If your children are used to having their dinner at 5.30pm, you should aim to be ready to eat at the same time. This might mean making a reservation for 5.00pm so the meals are on the table at the appropriate time. Even if your reservation is for the usual dinner time, make sure that your little ones are not tired. The worst time to dine out with your children is after a long day. An over tired child in a busy restaurant is a recipe for disaster, your child will become over stimulated and will not be able to sit quietly and remain calm to eat their dinner.
Select your restaurant carefully.
When deciding where to dine out with your children you should research your options before making a final choice. Check if the restaurant has high chairs and children’s menus and if you’re inclined, a children’s indoor play area. It’s not going to be very relaxing to show up for dinner at a five star restaurant to find out that your children cannot be catered for. If you have friends with children, ask around, see where are the best places according to other parents.
Set the ground rules before arriving.
It’s a good idea to explain to the children what is expected of them prior to arriving at the restaurant. Explain to your children that there will be other people at the restaurant that want to enjoy their meals so the children must be on their best behaviour. Small children will need to understand that they will be using special cutlery and crockery (ie, not plastic like at home) and they need to be very gentle with everything.
Have some entertainment on hand.
While you are waiting for your meals to arrive, or if the children finish their dinner before everyone else, it’s helpful to have something on hand to keep them entertained. Sometimes restaurants will have their own goodies for your children, but be prepared just in case there is nothing on hand. A good suggestion is to keep a small notebook, mini pencils or crayons and a sticker pad in your handbag (or nappy bag) to keep preschool aged or older children busy.
In the event of a meltdown.
We all know that no matter how well prepared you are, sometimes kids will just have a meltdown. If this happens in a restaurant, don’t ignore it. Ignoring tantrums is all well and good in a shopping centre in the middle of the day, but a restaurant is not the place for it, as all of the other diners will be disturbed. Instead, excuse yourself from the table and take your child away, either to the bathroom or outside. Once your child has calmed down and is ready to behave properly again you can both return to the table. If there’s no turning back, it’s ok to leave, have your meals wrapped up as doggy bags and try again another night. This is supposed to be a fun experience, remember?!