There’s a lot of things that change in your life when you become a parent. One major difference is the amount of time you spend dining out at cafes and restaurants. As your kids grow up it’s important to teach them good manners and practicing dining out is a perfect way to achieve this. Here’s some tips to get you and your kids out for a meal.
1. Think about seating
Kids don’t always enjoy adult chairs. They’re too big, uncomfortable and too tall for little legs. Research the restaurant/cafe first: do they have high chairs? Are they kid friendly?
If you are going in blind it’s a good idea to have your favourite pram or stroller along. You can easily help your child eat at the table from an adult seat or have them on your lap but this will only work for so long. Returning them to the comfort of their stroller will be easier on everyone and you might even be lucky enough for them to take an impromptu nap post meal!
2. Practice makes perfect
They never launch a rocket at NASA without running a test launch first. Elisabeth Stitt from Joyful Parenting Coaching recommends running a practice session at home before the full launch into the restaurant world.
“It is possible to train young kids to be great dinner companions, but the training starts at home.
Your children are ready to eat out in public if they are already a delight to eat meals with at home. To me that means that they stay seated until excused, they use their inside voices at the table, they use please and thank you, they are able to handle food on their plate they don't want to eat without having a tantrum and they have enough physical control of their bodies that they are not knocking things over all the time. When all that is in place, you can role play "restaurant" and set expectations. You might pretend that the restaurant is all out of your child's favorite dish, for example. You can brainstorm how the children can quietly entertain themselves if the service is slow and there is a long wait. And, finally, you can set your own expectations that if things go south, it is better to abandon a half eaten meal and take a child home with the hope that things go better next time.”
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3. Stop them from playing with their food
A classic rule at home and out; food is not a toy. That is unless you bring along some food toys from MyDeal pretend play. If you have child that can’t stick to the no playing with your food rule then why not bring along some food that’s meant for play? Sometimes when they can’t follow a rule you just need to adjust its parameters. No playing with real food we say.
4. Learn from experience
Susan Trani, from Violet and Lily pram liners, loves to eat out with her 4-year-old daughter and husband. These are the tricks that make it easy for her:
“My husband and I spend a lot of time in cafes and dine out regularly. Our daughter who is four has always accompanied us and since we don't dine at family restaurants, we have had to learn how to make dining out a positive experience.
Firstly, we always pack small toys that can be played with at the table quietly. Our daughter has always helped us pack these so she knows what she'll be playing with. Toys such as small animal figurines are perfect.
We always pack some small snacks also, that will satisfy her if there are no menu choices that will suit. Dried fruit, crackers or a mini muffin are our go-to choices, as they can be easily packed and don't require refrigeration.
We try to make dining out fun for our daughter, not just us. We always talk about the different environment and different foods available and always encourage our daughter to taste our food. She now loves dining out as much as we do.”
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5. Eat early
We can’t stress this one enough. If your kids eat at home between 5.30-6pm then they should have the same routine when it comes to dining out. We know you probably prefer a more adult dinner time but disrupting your children’s routine will make them tired, grumpy and hungry by the time you even reach the restaurant.
You might not be at a five-star French establishment on the first go but mastering your kids table manners will open up a whole new world of socialising for your family.