For busy parents, eating out is like heaven. There are days when you don’t have the energy to cook, clean the mess afterward, wash dishes, or even order take out. You just want to sit down and be waited on. Dining out can also be a great way to relax and bond with the family – that is, if your kids are well-behaved and everything goes really well at the restaurant. Otherwise, it will just be another thing to add to your already long and stressful day.
Eating out can be an amazing experience for kids. This is an opportunity for them to develop social skills, learn table manners and etiquette, and experience new flavors all at the same time. While this is a great opportunity to teach your kids to explore new dining situations and have a taste of different food, for some parents, it can be daunting.
With some planning and practice, eating out with kids does not need to be excruciating. Here are some tips that will help you and your family enjoy peaceful and happy meals out:
Start practicing at home
Train your kids first before venturing out to a restaurant. Practice appropriate table manners at home. Invite some stuffed animals, dolls, or even friends to a snack or a tea party. Pretend that you are all in a restaurant and role play good choices such as using utensils, waiting patiently, and sitting still. Also, it is best to put an emphasis on table manners at every meal at home. By doing so, your child will be able to better understand and follow rules when eating out if they know what is expected of them at the table.
Choose the restaurant carefully
Remember that not all restaurants are kid-friendly. If you are craving for sushi, sadly, this is not the best moment to bring your child with you. Your cravings will have to wait. Be realistic in your expectations before deciding to eat out with your toddler. Choose a restaurant that offers a kid-friendly menu, where orders can be done quickly and waiting for the food to arrive will not take too long. Controlling a toddler may be difficult if you are overly worried about the tablecloth and expensive china. So bringing them to a fancy restaurant should be off the list as well.
Respect your child’s attention span
Waiting for your order to arrive when dining out in a busy restaurant is a test of patience for most adults. Imagine how difficult it must be for children who have a shorter attention span. Choosing a hometown favorite where everything is busy may not be a good idea. Consider fast casual restaurants instead. While fast food chains are quicker, the food served is really not healthy and you will just worry about being responsible for childhood obesity problems. Fast casual food chains are reasonably affordable, comfortable and offer dishes that are healthier and of higher quality than fast-food restaurants. They also serve quickly and you will not have to worry about your child’s short attention span.
Bring activities to keep them busy
When dining out with toddlers, bring along some small puzzles or coloring books to keep them occupied while waiting for your food. You can also play simple games such as “Simon Says” or “I Spy”. Avoid checking your phone. Instead, focus on activities you can do with them. Check out restaurants that also include activities for kids on the menu. Some may not offer it automatically, but if you ask, some restaurants may have amazing kids’ packs.
Set expectations ahead of time
Training at home helps your child remember the manners they are expected to have when eating out. Be clear with how they must act and the consequences if they break the rules. You can tell them that if they don’t behave, their dad will take them out of the restaurant while the rest finish eating. It is not a form of punishment –it is just an indication that your child is not ready yet. Have more training at home and try again. Always stick to the consequences and make sure there is a follow through.
Here at Young Scholars Academy, we make sure that children are taught the right behavior as well as the skills that will help them become responsible adults. For more information, please feel free to visit our website.