Eating out—our tried and true tips we've lived eaten by
1• Eat together at home. It is the best practice for politeness and manners when we do eat out. Our children are already accustomed to eating together as a family and used to sitting still at a table. Besides, there are so many other bonding benefits and wonderful conversations that happen around our dinner table.
2• Feed your children before you go out. Really. Don't bring cranky-because-they're-starving kids and expect them to be polite and sit quietly. A small snack beforehand or (especially for toddlers) at the table as you wait for your food to be served. Trail mix, fruit, dry cereal or a few crackers to halt the harbinger of hunger.
3• Do not limit eating-out experiences to family dining establishments. We branch out to expose our children to other food fare. Gracious chefs have offered to custom make whatever our kids want when no kids menu is available—grilled cheese, PB&J, pasta—we politely decline in favor of our whole family trying and enjoying new tastes off the menu. So...
4• Even when a children's menu is offered, do not order from it. Dining out is an adventurous opportunity for kids try new foods. Children's menus are typically a monotonous brown palette of chicken nuggets, hot dogs, french fries and hamburgers. Nothing new, or adventurous. We even sample restaurants with flavors from across the globe. Our oldest daughter discovered sushi this way. It is her favorite food, and it sparked her to learn to make her own. I know she's glad that she was given the opportunity to try her now-most-favorite food.
5• Bring a pencil or crayons and paper for everyone. My mother always did; and it made the wait for our food so much quicker when we were doodling and playing tic-tac-toe. When our children were babies, I brought along a bag of activities—small toys I always kept handy in a grab-and-go bag. Keeping them separate from their everyday toys not only kept them ready to go; but these novel toys kept them occupied longer than ones they had already played with that day. Books are kept in this bag too. Forgot the activity bag? Here are 10 things for children to do while sitting in a restaurant.
6• Eat out when others are not. Friday and Saturday nights mean long wait times for a table. Then, longer waits for service and food preparation. With kids, we opt for less waiting. We go earlier in the evening. Mid-week is less crowded too.
7• Give kids two choices off the menu to choose between. Reading everything off the menu, or asking children they want, makes the decision of what to order daunting—for them and you.
8• Clean up after little ones. We pick up what has been dropped and wipe up the plops. We want to be greeted with genuine smiles from waitstaff when we come the next time.
9• Eat out in unusual ways. We have get-ready-in-5-minutes-picnics; and we dine under the darkening sky at the drive-in with homemade gourmet. Dining out with children doesn't always have to be at a restaurant.
10• Enjoy one other. That's what eating out is all about. Just that. And, that someone else will be washing the dishes.
Cluny Art Bar Montreal, Canada. ©heather cahoon • wordplayhouse®
Children's activities to take along when dining out
4 wood brain teaser puzzle older children may share with younger children to use as building blocks 5 wipe-off activity mat many activities available for different ages and learning levels 6 wordless book without words the story can be told over and over, each time a little differently—this one is a Caldecott Award winner too!
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