5 rules for eating in restaurants with your young children.
Photo by cottonbro studio
Going out for a meal can be a great way to change up the routine and treat your family to something different. Dining out as a family also presents an opportunity for everyone to bond, tell stories, and share a laugh. That being said, ensuring a relaxing, stress-free outing can be tricky when you add small children to the mix.
The truth is, toddlers and young kids can be quite unruly at times. They don’t want to behave when that’s expected of them the most, and may not meet the expectations you’ve set. If you’re a parent who’s planning a family outing soon, here are five rules for eating in restaurants with young children to keep in mind.
Start by checking if kids are welcome
This one’s obvious, but you’d be amazed at the number of parents who bring young children to places that are not exactly kid-friendly. Let’s be honest – you can’t really expect a toddler to fit in if a place you’re taking them to is intended for quiet, intimate dining. Likewise, it’s impossible for them not to yell in a sports bar filled with men that are being loud.
Other than that, some places don’t even have a children’s menu. While there is a possibility that a restaurant may decide to accommodate their young guests and make them feel welcome, others won’t. Rather than taking chances, play it safe and call to check ahead of time.
Order your kids’ meals first
The youngest ones in the family aren’t exactly what you’d call patient. They don’t understand the concept of time, and that their dish may take a while to arrive. This is why your safest bet is to place an order for your kids first.
Many places and burger bars have kids-only meals, and a quick glance at a diverse Burgermeister menu will be enough to find a perfect dish for your little one. Whether it means ordering some tasty appetizers for the whole family to share or getting a meal just for your little one, order as soon as possible. Have the food brought with your drinks, or have it arrive with starters. Doing so means the food will be able to cool down faster, so your little one won’t get fussy and over-hungry.
Don’t resort to electronics… unless absolutely necessary
This is a no-brainer, yet many parents won’t bat an eye if their children start using their iPads and tablets at mealtime. With our overflowing schedules and hectic lifestyles, mealtime is for many families the only way to spend time together. Unless it’s a desperate situation, don’t resort to electronics to distract your kids.
Rather, plan ahead and pack some coloring books and crayons before you leave the house. They’ll save the day, the kids will be happy, and you’ll have that low-tech outing you wanted so bad.
Clean up everything before you leave
Toddlers are notoriously messy. They’ll leave crumbs everywhere they go, they’ll splatter their veggies all around them, and they’ll probably throw stuff under the table, too. They’ll probably leave half-chewed food lying around, cover things with saliva, and create a little wasteland. They may decide to have a food fight mid-dinner, and drop things on the floor.
The least you can do is pick up the mess they left, and help clean up a bit. You don’t have to make it look spotless, though. Still, a little effort goes a long way, and it will serve as a nice gesture.
Tip…and then tip a bit more
Bringing young children to restaurants can be a hassle – not just for parents, but for all the guests as well. Still, no one knows how difficult it is to keep a straight face and try not to get annoyed better than the waiters. They’re the ones bringing special dishes, high-chairs, and other special equipment. They’re the ones trying to take orders despite all the noise kids are making, and the ones whose routine is disrupted.
The least you can do is tip them… and then tip a bit more. If necessary, apologize once again, all the while remembering that this, too, shall pass.
A little effort goes a long way
Avoiding stressful situations at family outings when you have a toddler may seem impossible. However, all it really takes is a bit of organizing and planning ahead. Stick to these rules next time you’re out with your family, and you’ll have no problem ensuring everyone has a good time.