Dining out with young children is rarely going to be the peaceful and relaxing affair that we experience with other adults around the table, but that doesn’t mean we should dread the idea. Eating out as a family is a great way to spend quality time together, experience new food, people and places. It’s also a great opportunity to show young children how to behave in different social situations.
That said, it’s completely understandable that some parents find the challenge of keeping their kids well-behaved, paired with the possibility of impending public embarrassment, is enough to put them off until the kids are a bit older.
Well, tantrums do happen and you can never guarantee 100% that everything will go smoothly, but with some simple preparation and sensible choices, you can certainly make a family meal out seem far less daunting. Try some of our favorite tips & tricks and you may find you actually enjoy yourselves while having a well-deserved break from the cooking.
Plenty of Practice
If there are no rules at home – juice running down the walls and spaghetti hanging from the light fixtures – it may be more difficult to enforce sensible eating routines elsewhere. Sitting nicely in the highchair/chair, using a napkin and age-appropriate cutlery, and speaking in our ‘little’ voices are all great practice when it comes to table manners for little ones. We can even practise with a bit of pretend play, taking turns as waiter/waitress and laying places at or napkins on laps.
Choose Your Eatery Wisely
Depending on the age and fidget level of your little one you may want to choose a spacious restaurant that caters for families or has a dedicated family area. Many child-friendly restaurants have crayons and colouring books, or dining table games. Places that are used to catering for young families will also be used to a little extra noise and mess, and this may make all the difference when it comes to the rest of the family being able to relax and enjoy the meal.
Be Super Prepared
For children up to 5 years, even 45 minutes will seem like a really long time to try sitting still. Be prepared to have a little walk around while you wait for food or between courses, a quick stretch of the limbs can make a big difference to little fidgety legs. Bring a favourite book, stickers or colouring-in; anything your child likes doing that is quiet and relatively calm.
Just remember, if all your careful planning does go up in the air like a spoonful of catapulted peas, there’s no point bringing your frustration to the table too. Ask for take-out boxes or move to an outside table if you can… if you have to go home earlier than planned chalk it up to experience. Even the things that don’t go perfectly still count towards the valuable life lessons that will help your little learner to cope with certain situations as they grow.
If you have a hectic family schedule and find spending quality time together is a struggle, why not enrol with Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning & Childcare in NSW? All our centres offer a super fun, activity based curriculum to help children to learn through play and positive associations.