Dining out with our family is an exciting experience too, especially for celebrations and special occasions, but sometimes it can be challenging with young children who are in a new environment.
Not to fear though! With a little patience and planning, dining out can be a piece of cake!
Here are our top 10 favourite ideas to help when dining out with your family.
- Pick your restaurant carefully. Many restaurants are family-friendly, with lots of additional features and resources for parents and young children. This doesn’t mean dining casually at McDonald’s although it’s helpful to choose somewhere that you children will enjoy the cuisine; Pizza Express is great for children and Carluccio’s is perfect for an impromptu lunch with friends and family.
- Plan ahead. Plan ahead of your meal and consider how busy the restaurant or café may be, especially if you have a pushchair or pram which you may need to tuck to one side. It’s also helpful to go when your children are likely to be hungry (although not too hungry – especially if there’s a wait for food!)
- Avoid nap or sleep times. Although difficult, especially if you’re venturing out for lunch, try to avoid your child’s regular nap or sleep times. This will minimise the risk of tiredness and tantrums!
- Take small toys and books. Even at the fastest restaurants, there might be a short wait for food. To be on the safe side and prevent little feet from wandering off, bring along a couple of small, quiet toys or books, which you can keep in your bag. These are great if your little one finishes eating before you too.
- Consider where you sit. Many restaurants have different seating areas, including booths and benches. Booths are great to keep everyone sat in their seat and you may also find they’re tucked into corners too, if you would like a little more space and quiet from the main restaurant dining area.
- Check out the children’s menu. Don’t forget to check the children’s menu, which often includes many children’s favourites in small portions. Some restaurants also offer small portions from their main menu too for little palates seeking bold flavours.
- Bring your own cutlery. A great idea is to bring your child’s cutlery from home as not all restaurants have children’s cutlery. If the food and plates are particularly hot, bringing your child’s plastic bowl or plate can help the food cool quicker, while also reducing the risk of any spills or burnt fingers.
- Practise good table manners. Talk to your child about table manners and how they should behave when eating out or in a restaurant. This might include saying “please” and “thank you” when ordering meals or drinks, remaining in their seat until everyone has finished eating, using an indoor or quiet voice and not playing with food.
- Keep your meals short. Children often find it difficult to sit still, especially in new environments with lots of different smells, sounds and exciting activities taking place. Think about how long your child will be able to sit still for in one place and try to keep the length of time to a minimum, but allowing yourself enough time to enjoy the meal and experience out.
- Keep calm and carry on. It’s important to remember that everyone was a child once and most families will understand the natural challenges you may face when dining with young children. Keeping calm and relaxed will help everyone else stay calm too, and you can all enjoy a fantastic meal.