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When my daughter was about 2, we stopped going out for dinner. I spent more time away from the table, than at it, because she was going behind the bar, and entertaining other diners (much to their amusement). It was not a relaxing experience, so we shelved dining out at night for about a year, and made the most of quick brunches instead.
Now that she’s older, it’s much easier, but it can still be a little overwhelming if you’re not prepared.
I’m all for a break from the drudgery of cooking and cleaning up every night. Having someone else put food down in front of you – AND do the washing up is such a treat. However, kids will be kids, no matter how beautifully behaved they may be. So, if you expect them to sit for a certain period of time when you’re dining out, a little forward planning will help ensure you all enjoy it.
Don’t Book it Too Late
I get grumpy if I’m hungry for too long and most kids are the same. Try booking your table early – you’ll beat the rush and cut down on the time it takes for your dinner to arrive. Some people hate eating too early, but hey, when you have kids, you have to compromise, and at least you’re not being asked to cook!
Choose The Right Restaurant
Choose a restaurant that is suited to your needs as a family. A five star dining experience might be what you feel like, but you’ll have trouble convincing a toddler of that. If you want to try a new restaurant, ask friends if they can recommend one that caters well for kids in terms of food and atmosphere.
Check the Menu Online
Many restaurants have their menus online now, so take a look before your night out and plan in advance what your kids might want to eat. Planning ahead also allows you to order immediately if you have ravenously hungry kids with you. It is also a good idea to give small children a choice of 2 dishes only – this will make your life easier.
Pack Some Activities
This is the golden rule in my house. I am never without activities as my daughter loves drawing and coloring. I usually keep this for either in between courses, or when she has finished her dinner. Coloring books, crayons/pencils and reading books are worth their weight in gold for keeping kids occupied. Any quiet activity will work!
Practice Good Table Manners
Children who eat regularly with other family members at a dinner table, and whose parents endeavour to teach them table manners, are more likely to understand what is expected of them when dining out. If your kids manners need a bit of tweaking, practise at home how they should sit, eat, hold their cutlery and not talk with their mouths full. You can reward good table manners with a meal out at their favorite restaurant.