Dining out is one of the most common activities that many families do, including those with young kids. However, children, especially toddlers, tend to be unruly at mealtimes, making eating out less than relaxing and enjoyable for everyone in the establishment. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good meal out with your little one—you need to follow a different approach.
Whether you have a younger or school-aged child, you can help them prepare by trying the strategies mentioned for a fun and stress-free dining experience outside.
Plan the Menu
Doing a little pre-dinner strategizing is ideal. This method is handy when dining out with babies or toddlers, allowing you to ensure the meal goes more smoothly. So, make sure to look up the restaurant’s menu beforehand and see what dinner plan would work best for your child.
Planning the menu for your kid also ensures that they can get their food first, reducing the chances of becoming rowdy, especially when they’re hungry or just woke up.
Start Early On
Bringing your kids to eat out early on is a great way to introduce them to the concept, helping you let them learn how to act in restaurants or when generally dining out. When you want to let your child experience eating in a public setting, it’s up to you, but generally, kids as young as two years old are a great start. This concept also applies on the same day. For instance, working backward from bedtime when you make a reservation is a great way to let your kids enjoy the experience without getting too tired.
Engage Them in the Experience
You can help make the dining experience for your kids more fun by engaging them with the actual activity. For instance, reading out the menu together or pointing out unique ingredients and dishes is a great way to pique their interest and encourage your kids to try new things. You may also tell them funny stories about the food and discuss their different flavors with them. Doing this can also spark their curiosity, which is always good for young minds.
When they’re bored, go around the restaurant or cafe with them and make it a sensory experience. Have them touch stone, wood, a fake brick wall, or take a quick stroll at the garden area while their food is being prepared. Having them blow off some steam or energy will prevent a tantrum later.
It’s a special night out. So, get the most out of it by making your kids part of the experience.
A fun way to make dining out with your kids a more enjoyable experience for them and yourself is by being imaginative, such as playing “restaurant games.” These include fun games such as drawing what they think the food will look like before their meal arrives or guessing what ingredients they have. It’s an excellent method to keep your kids entertained and prevent them from using their gadgets.
If you’re looking to unwind and enjoy a good meal with the family, a great way to relax and enjoy your food when dining out with kids is by providing them with a portable distraction. Whether it’s stickers, coloring books, iPads, or crayons, these are great things to distract your kids while waiting for their food. However, whatever you bring, ensure they’re new so that they can be captivated by it for the entire duration.
Talk to Them
Running a conversation is key to an inclusive and engaging meal, especially for kids. Make them feel involved by asking them questions about the foods they’re trying, such as describing the taste of their meal and what they think its recipe contains. It’s best to imbue your kids with a sense of adventure and curiosity early on to trigger their creative energy, and that includes when dining out.
Make Sure Kids Are Welcomed
Not every restaurant embraces kids, with some establishments being very explicit about that. So, it’s best to play it safe and call the restaurant of your choice ahead to ensure your child is welcomed. Another way you can tell if a restaurant’s kid-friendly is by offering a separate kid’s menu. In contrast, others go out of their way to accommodate children, offering stroller check-ins and toys to keep them entertained.
Doing your research ensures your kids will have a great experience on the get-go and save you from the hassle of searching for an alternative.
If you’ve wanted to let your kid dine in a public setting for a while but hesitate because you don’t want to be “that table,” the techniques mentioned can make the experience smoother, peaceful, and fun for you and your little one.