One of the things you miss when becoming a parent are long, late luxurious lunches fuelled with good wine, desserts, fresh meals and gossip with girlfriends.
The long luxurious lunch may be a thing of the past unless you can find a sitter; however, it is still important that you introduce your children to dining outside of the home.
Dining With Children
Children need to develop social and behavioural skills early and exposing them to eating at restaurants is one way to do this. Although you can probably kiss those three hour lunch dates away, spending an hour at a restaurant dining with your kids is a great way to enjoy one another’s company while you get a break from the cooking and cleaning.
- Most restaurants cater to children in some way or another. However, some are going to be much more kid friendly than others. Look into restaurants in your area that have kid’s meals. Some will even include kids activities such as colouring books or kids packs for the table. You may even luck out and find a few places that provide “Kids Eat Free” incentives and kids entertainment on certain days of the week.
- Let your children choose what they would like to eat from the menu, and encourage them to speak to the restaurant staff themselves when ordering (if they are old enough). Developing a good relationship with the restaurant and staff means every visit will get a bit easier.
- Choose a time that will work for the kids. If you have plans for dinner at a restaurant, then try to give them a later nap or lie down. Bring a pair of pyjamas if it’s going to be a really late one so they can change in the car and be ready for bed when you get home.
- If you are doing a lunch date, make sure you consider nap time. Most toddlers will not drop their daytime sleep until 2 or 3 (or later if you’re lucky!) and thus you need to consider that they may be getting cranky around the same time the meals are served. Aim for an early lunch so you can be home for afternoon nap time.
- Let them know what you are doing and where you are going. Tell them what is acceptable and what is not so they are aware of what to expect. Talk to them about the food choices, especially if the standard chips and nuggets are not available.
- Accept that problems may happen. Water gets spilled; crayons get dropped; wine glasses may be broken. Try to keep the kids away from all glass items on the table. Bring your own plastic cups for the kids to use as well as some small toys for the table. If you are okay with your kids playing with your mobile phone, then look into downloading some interactive and educational games for them to play while waiting at the table. Or, bring along colouring books if the restaurant doesn’t supply them.
And when all else fails….
Okay, you’re dying for a meal and you just KNOW there is now way little Johnnie and his brother will behave – go the tablets or download an educational app to you and your partners phones. Guaranteed to get a little bit of peace, at least so you can eat your meal.
If your kids are still not up to going out and your losing your temper, be prepared to leave. If your child is not behaving and continues to have meltdowns, then don’t just threaten to leave – do it. You may need to make a quick exit so have cash on hand and request a doggy bag. It can be frustrating having to eat and run but this will teach your children the right and wrong way to behave and ensure that you remain in control of the situation.
Tips for Parents
If you are going out at night, it’s always a good idea to bath your children before you go, and dress them in comfortable, but appropriate clothing. That way if they fall asleep in the car on the way home, you can just pop them into bed!
At the end of the day, eating out at a restaurant can be an exciting experience for your children.
You should be able to enjoy a meal with them without worrying about meltdowns and food fights. With the right attitude and practice, you can make eating out with kids an enjoyable (and even relaxing) experience for the entire family.