Many families shy away from taking young children to restaurants to eat, but exposing young kids to dining out can be a great way to teach them etiquette, social skills, and patience. As they get older, they’ll know better how to behave in a restaurant, and taking them out will be much easier after they’ve had some practice.
Choose the Right Place at the Right Time
First, decide upon a restaurant that you know has a children’s menu and high chairs. This is a clear sign that the restaurant tries to provide a welcoming environment for families with children! A spot which already has a bit of ambient noise is a great idea for families who suspect that their children may not be able to keep quiet at the table. Be sure to avoid peak times when you may have to endure a long wait, or make a reservation. Expecting young children to wait for a table and then sit through a meal is a lot to ask! Remember to venture out when your children are well rested. Interrupting a nap or bedtime routine is never a good idea if you want a peaceful meal.
Devise a Seating Plan
Where is the best place for your young child? Next to you, of course, for all of the food-cutting, bread-buttering, crayon-locating, and mess-wiping you’ll need to take care of. Allowing your child to face the restaurant is a great idea, as the other patrons can provide a bit of distraction and entertainment.
Look at the Menu in Advance
Before you go out, check out the restaurant’s menu to make sure there are a few items your child will enjoy. That way, when you get to the restaurant, you’ll have your child’s order in mind already. When your server comes by to deliver menus and take drinks orders, consider ordering your child’s meal ahead of everyone else’s so that your little one will be fed and feeling satisfied as quickly as possible.
Bring Some Games on the Go
You don’t need to get super creative with games and toys, but bringing a few crayons and a coloring book, or some stickers, can help a child to stay focused during the meal. You can also play games, like naming every animal or type of food they can think of that starts with a certain letter, or playing I Spy.
Grab the Bill As Soon As Possible
If everyone has ordered everything they’re going to order, ask the server for the bill and pay it, even if you haven’t entirely finished your meal. Sure, this practice is not going to win you any etiquette awards, but when your little one has a meltdown just as everyone is finishing their desserts, you’ll be glad that you don’t need to wait for the bill before getting out of there!
Have you visited restaurants with your child? If you’ve figured out how to get your kids to dine out without drama, tell us about your tactics in the comments section!