I had no idea going out to eat at a restaurant with a kid entailed so much prep work, but these days Im feeling like a pro at it since our life is always go-go! From navigating menus to keeping them entertained, parents sometimes feel like they need a magic wand. Fear not! With a few simple strategies, you can turn a potential disaster into a pleasant family outing. Here are some tried-and-true tips to help you and your little ones enjoy a stress-free dining experience.
Choose Kid-Friendly Restaurants:
Opt for family-friendly establishments with a welcoming atmosphere and a menu that caters to young taste buds. Restaurants with play areas or outdoor spaces are also great choices. For example, consider places with a designated kids’ corner equipped with games and activities.
Timing is Key:
Plan your outing during off-peak hours to avoid crowds and long wait times. An early dinner or a late lunch can often be more relaxed, giving your kids the space they need. Additionally, consider making a reservation to skip the line and reduce the wait time.
Pack a small bag with coloring books, crayons, or quiet toys to keep your kids engaged while waiting for food. This can be a lifesaver during those crucial moments when patience wears thin. Interactive games like travel-sized board games or storytelling cards can also be a hit.
Before heading to the restaurant, have a quick chat with your kids about behavior expectations. Let them know what’s acceptable and what’s not, reinforcing positive manners and politeness. For instance, explain that using inside voices, staying seated, and saying “please” and “thank you” are important.
Choose kid-friendly meals that are easy to eat and unlikely to cause a mess. Many restaurants offer smaller portions or kid’s menus. If the menu allows, consider ordering a few dishes to share family-style. For example, opt for finger foods like chicken tenders or sliders that are easy for little hands to manage.
Have a small stash of healthy snacks handy, especially if your kids are hungry before the food arrives. This can prevent meltdowns and keep them content until the main course. Portable snacks like fruit slices, trail mix, or granola bars are excellent choices.
Be Mindful of Timing:
Request that appetizers and kids’ meals be served promptly. Hungry children are more likely to become restless, so having food on the table quickly can make a significant difference. Inform the server if you’re in a hurry and appreciate their assistance in expediting the order.
Allow for short breaks during the meal. A quick stroll around the restaurant or a bathroom break can help release pent-up energy and prevent restlessness. Use this time to engage in a mini scavenger hunt within the restaurant or share a quick family game.
Praise Positive Behavior:
Reinforce good behavior with positive reinforcement. Acknowledge and praise your kids when they exhibit good manners or patience. This encourages them to continue behaving well. For example, celebrate their efforts with a small treat or extra playtime at home.
Be Prepared to Leave:
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, kids may not cooperate. Be ready to cut the outing short if necessary. Knowing you’re willing to leave can encourage better behavior next time. Keep a bag packed with essentials, so you can make a swift exit if needed, and assure your kids that there will be other opportunities for family outings.
With a bit of planning and flexibility, dining out with kids can be an enjoyable experience for the whole family. Embrace the opportunity to teach your children about proper restaurant etiquette while creating lasting memories together. Happy dining!