On Father’s Day Dad 101, Immy and I took my Mum and Dad out to dinner at a local family restaurant. We went early (5.30pm) to avoid the crowds and because we eat early every day, it’s what Immy is used to. As we were finishing our meal (about 6.30/6.45pm) another family with a toddler sat at the table next to us. The toddler was obviously tired (and possibly hungry) and for the 20-30 minutes of their family outing that I observed, completely miserable. He whined, cried and tantrum-ed the whole time. I felt for the adults at his table (particularly the women) as they did not look relaxed at all. This in contrast to Immy, who sat at the table and waited for her meal, ate well, and was social with everyone at our table and the wonderful waitstaff.
From this, you might expect that we eat out regularly. We don’t (much as we would love to) however Immy is used to us all sitting together to eat. Whether you eat out once a week, once a month or once a year, I do believe there are simple steps that you can take to make eating out as a family run more smoothly, no matter how often (or how seldom) you do so;
- Make your restaurant booking for half an hour before you would normally eat. This allows you time to be seated, read the menu, order and (hopefully!) receive your meal before your children start to get whingey due to the fact that they need to eat.
- Choose restaurants that cater for children and are family friendly. Ask, do they have a kids menu? High chair?
- Prepare your toddler/child for the outing so that they know what is expected of them. Simply telling them that you are going out to dinner, who is going with you, and a little about what you expect to happen will prepare them for what is to come.
- When you sit down, remove salt shakers, glasses, candles and other breakables out of your child’s reach. Ask for them to be completely removed from the table if necessary.
- Order quickly to reduce waiting time.
- When you arrive, order bread or an entree to share and ask that it be bought out first, so that your child is not waiting too long to begin eating. Alternatively, ask for the child’s meal to come out first.
- Choose a dish for your child that they are familiar with. We currently stick to fish,chips and salad or a simple pasta for Immy. She still likes to taste whatever we order but I can be reasonably sure that she will eat her meal if its one of these options.
- Remember to take child sized cutlery, sippy cup, bib and baby wipes or washcloth.
- Consider taking a favourite toy or drawing materials with you to help keep your child busy at the table whilst you are waiting or for once they have finished eating.
- Have some small snacks in your bag in case there are any unexpected delays.
- Use eating out as an opportunity to demonstrate to your toddler/child basic manners and social behaviours. Don’t nag, just gently remind children of manners and your expectations.
- Don’t feel stressed about any spills or messes, your child is not the first and will not be the last. The dinner mentioned in the introduction, Immy accidentally knocked a bread plate off the table and it smashed. The staff were very gracious in helping me clear the mess.
Do you eat out as a family? What works for you?