My husband and I used to love eating out before we had kids. All we had to do was show up and enjoy our conversation. Someone else would cook our food, serve it beautifully and do all the washing up afterwards. Kids complicated things a bit. We’d plan for a lovely, relaxing evening and we’d get crying children, who run around and throw their food on the ground. Both my husband and I would be feeling exhausted by the end of the night, vowing to never do it again. But then we’d do it again anyway. And again. We tried different approaches and eventually, we worked out some ways to make dining out enjoyable even with kids.
Have realistic expectations
Kids are not going sit still and quiet while you’re having an adult conversation. They’ll move around, play, talk, sing, laugh and demand your attention (if they don’t, they’re probably not feeling that well). Instead of trying to control their behaviour and get frustrated when you fail, know that you kids are perfectly fine just the way they are and plan for it.
Choose your timing
Opt for an early or late lunch, or early dinner, when there aren’t many people at the restaurant. It’s good to encourage appropriate manners as best as you can, but if the kids are noisy, crawl under the tables and walk around, at quiet times they can do so without disturbing the other visitors. You’ll also get quicker service and avoid boredom that comes with waiting.
Choose your location
Our favourite restaurant has a play area with a gate that children can’t open by themselves. They love playing there and we can concentrate on our meals and each other without worrying that the kids will wander off. Unfortunately, it’s rare to come across this type of setup, but there are many places with a small play section and a few toys for the kids.
Choose your food
Study the menu in advance and make sure that the restaurant offers something that your children will like. While you can bring kids’ snacks with you, eating food from home takes away from the excitement of going out. You’d be able to keep the children’s interest longer if they get to ‘choose’ their own food. Then there’s an element of surprise when the meals come out. Even if it’s the same food the children always eat, when it’s served differently, it seems different.
Give them attention
Children will often do crazy things to get our attention, so offering attention before things get out of hand is always a good strategy. Show interest in their activities, help them with their meal and involve them in the conversation.
Finally, don’t let one or two bad experiences (which will inevitably happen) discourage you. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with giving up dining out for the time being, but if it’s something that brings you joy, it’s worth persisting. Next time choose a different restaurant or different time, bring a different toy. Experiment to find what works for you and your family.
Image by PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay.com
By Tatiana Apostolova