When you’re new to parenting, there will come a time when you need to take your little one out on a little food adventure. Exposing your child at an early age to new settings such as restaurants, can help in their development and can help you teach them manners and dining etiquette. But this is easier said than done!
If you’re old to parenting, you know what I’m talking about. Tantrums, food flinging, yelling on top of their lungs, running around, crying and even more yelling –these are just small sample sizes of what you should expect when going on a date with your kid. Here are a few tips to surviving eating out with your child so that both of you can enjoy the experience.
Choose a child friendly restaurant. It pays to be prepared, so use your Google skills and search for child friendly establishments in your area. Most restaurants have a website that displays their menu, so you can choose what you’re going to order beforehand. Once you narrowed down your search, call ahead and check for yourself if they really allow kids. If the person on the other line hesitates, look for another one. Some places don’t allow kids and some can be really uppity about it, especially fine dining restaurants.
Schedule your trip around sleepy time. Hunger and boredom is like a ticking time bomb on a child. Make sure your little one is properly rested before you go out to eat. If his usual nap time is 1pm, don’t schedule anything at 12 noon. You can always eat after he wakes up to avoid any tantrums.
Bring a bag of tricks. This is really a must! Always bring a bag full of her favorite toys or whatever can fit. Crayons, stuffed toys, Playdough –anything to keep her happy and occupied while you’re eating. Electronics are always a bad idea and can be noisy for other diners. POS systems for restaurants that show the menu on an iPhone or iPad is also a neat trick. Ask the waiter if your child can press the order button when you’re done ordering.
Bring a light snack. When kids are hungry, they get cranky. Bring some crackers, raisins or his favorite snack. Keep it light though, because you don’t want to ruin his appetite.Give him just enough until the food arrives. You can also talk to the waiter and ask for a glass of milk or a slice of fruit to be served ahead of the main meal.
Order Easy. Don’t get too fancy with your order and keep your food choices to a bare minimum. Ordering complicated dishes that take longer to prepare will only extend your time in the restaurant, prolonging your child’s agony of having to sit still in one place.
Be considerate of other diners. Always choose a seat far away from other diners and preferably with a window facing the street. This will minimize the noise other diners can hear if your child is being noisy, and she can occupy herself with all the action going onoutside. When your child starts to throw a fit, make sure you stay calm and relaxed at all times. Children can absorb our energy and screaming at them will only make things worse.Get them to focus on another thing or stand up and take them to the rest room or outside so they can calm down.
Get ready to hit the road. If all else fails, pack up and leave. Be prepared for the eventuality that you may not finish eating, so have your food wrapped for take-away, apologize to the other diners if any food was flung at them or if your child let out an ear splitter, and head for home. This is not defeat! By being considerate and knowing when to leave, you’re giving yourself and your child another crack at the same restaurant when you feel like eating out.
Eating out with your child is truly a learning experience for both of you. You can teach him manners and how to be considerate of other people. It’s also the best way to show him how well you treat other people, like saying “please” or “thank you” to the wait staff and other people in the restaurant.