Every now and then it is fun to break away from the house and eat out with the kids. Dining out can be a pleasurable dream of culinary experience. Yet it also has the potential to turn into a nightmare of impatient screaming and food tossing that can make someone want to crawl under the table to escape the scowls and impatient huffing beamed like lasers of awkward leveled straight at their head from other diners. Never fear! It is possible to have a positive experience when eating out with children. Here are 5 helpful tips to remember when eating out with kids that can make it an enjoyable experience for all.
1) Timing is everything – Make sure young ones are well napped, clean and in their happy time of day before going out. Don’t take and early-bird baby out to dinner nor a night owl out to brunch. Find that sweet spot when the kids are ready to be social so to avoid being held back by a case of grumpiness. If possible, make sure kids don’t snack too much before going to the restaurant. If they are hungry they will take time to sit at the table and eat. If they are not hungry they might be more interested in exploring the establishment than sitting down to eat at it.
2) Choosing a restaurant- When choosing a restaurant it’s important to take into account the atmosphere of the dining establishment. Is it child friendly? What type of food is there? Do they have quick service? For the best success in dining with children it is best to go places that are spacious, offer fast service and distractions to keep kids occupied while food is being prepared and adults finish their meals.
3) Work as a team- The more adults the merrier when eating out with kids. It is good to have someone who can help manage an impatient child by taking them for a walk while waiting for food to be prepared or while the other adults are finishing their meals. Play quiet games of peek-a-boo or other finger play songs that children can participate in while waiting. Let little ones sit on one adult’s lap while the other eats. Perhaps a game of I-spy for older kids can keep them occupied. Take the time to engage all children in conversation during those potentially difficult waiting times and make them into positive opportunities for bonding and sharing. This will occupy the children and make the time seem to go by faster and smoother for all involved.
4) Location, Location, Location- Where the children are seated can greatly affect success while eating out. Being seated in a booth to help with child containment is very helpful. When a child sits closer to the wall and an adult next to them it is easier to keep children from running away from the table to discover other parts of the establishment.
Sitting near a window or a high traffic area where children can watch and be entertained by passers by can be helpful. Sitting near other children and not other adults that prefer a quieter setting can be beneficial. All in all the location in the restaurant that allows kids to stretch out a bit and have some room to move without taking away from the dining experience of others is the way to go.
5) Distraction is key- Some restaurants offer children crayons and a placemat to color. However, sometimes the entertainment value wears off quickly. It is always prudent to have some toys in a pack to bring out with you. These should be either favorite toys or toys that a child rarely sees. Something that is novel and quiet that they will want to take time to explore. Some good choices can be small toy cars, small dolls and action figures, crayons and paper, or a travels size Etch-a-sketch can work well as a fun distraction. Use age appropriate toys.
Bring a favorite sippy-cup or bottle along in addition to other comfort items available and remember to order favorite foods. Its fine to offer some of your new and exciting food choices to try however for most kids going out is new and sometimes overwhelming. It is better to leave new foods for home where if it spawns a massive temper tantrum it can be better managed.
For older kids games like tic-tac-toe, hangman or other such pen and paper games can be a fun and easy way to keep a child occupied and well behaved during the difficult waiting times.
You can have fun with little ones at eating establishments. It is educational for young children socialize in their community with activities like eating out. By using these 5 easy tips eating out with kids can be fun for everyone.
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