Going out with your children to a restaurant needs planning and time as there are many important factors that children need to learn before they explore such outings. What can we, as parents, do in order to reach this goal and have a relaxing and enjoyable dinner with our children? From my humble experience, here are a few tips which I think might be of good help.
1. Have the habit to eat together at least once per day
Families bond the most when all the members are seated all together at the table. Table manners, for instance, start from the early stages of life. Once your baby is able to sit in a high chair, you can start keeping him with you while you have lunch or dinner. When children see how you behave at the table, they will indirectly learn about table manners. For example, they will learn how to use the fork and knife, eat slowly, chew well, and take small bites. Moreover, you have the chance to correct any misbehaviour before it might happen in public.
2. Set expectations in advance
Before leaving to the restaurant, tell your children that you expect them to behave and eat properly just as the way they usually do at home. Explain that people go to restaurants to eat in tranquillity and would love to have a quiet atmosphere in order to enjoy their food. Explain how you won’t tolerate running or throwing food (if they happen to do that) or any kind of inappropriate conduct.
Children usually get in trouble quite easily when you go out with other friends. That is why, it is better to do the first couple of outings alone before you plan lunch gatherings with other families.
3. Choose family-friendly restaurants
If it is possible to choose a restaurant that provides the children with a play area, it will always be better for them to release their energy after a good meal. However, if it is not possible, try to make the lunch a bit quick at the beginning so your children will not be all over the restaurant.
When my third son was around three years old, we went out with some friends to a restaurant which had a baby pool, some slides, and swings next to it. What would a child at his age naturally do? Well of course he ran into the pool with all his clothes and shoes… You can imagine my reaction!
4. Choose a table that is on the side
It is always better to have your own space when going out as a family, especially if you are a big one with many kids (like mine). Sitting in the middle of the restaurant makes you the point of attention, and trust me you do not want that.
5. Get into the habit of involving your kids with your discussions
Kids love to be treated like adults. Giving your children the chance of asking for their order in the proper manner – by saying please and thank you, involving them in your discussions and talking about topics that interest them would have them glued to their chairs. You can also talk about the types of food they have ordered and how healthy their choices are. Listening to what children talk about helps parents learn more about their little ones and strengthens the bond with them.
6. Order the food for everyone at the same time
When you decide to go to a restaurant, make sure that your children are not starving, so you can all eat at the same time. By doing so, you will all start together and finish together serenely.
7. Have fun material at hand
Nowadays, most restaurants and diners offer kids menus which have fun activities booklets as well. However, in case that option was not available, or you think your children are not interested in what they have to offer, you can bring crayons and coloring books, travel kit game boards or Crazy 8 cards. So instead of having your children fooling around and embarrassing you, you will be passing the time and having fun with them while waiting for the food to be served. Even though, electronic games and iPads are always easier to carry around, I am very apprehensive when it comes to this type of entertainment. After all, we are going out to enjoy the time as a family and the last thing we want is to have our children’s attention glued to a screen.
Family time is precious and the earlier we work on enjoying the time with our children, the richer our relationship becomes. Building proper behaviour is not easily acquired, but with patience and consistency children will soon get in the routine of knowing how to behave in restaurants.
N.B: Pictures are taken from Pinterest