Eating out with your kids

You may not go out as much now that you have young kids, but that shouldn’t mean that you never get to go out. If you have any budget left for entertainment, you may be thinking of taking them to a restaurant.

This can be intimidating: How can going to a restaurant with kids be fun? Here are some tips to help you get out and about:

Preparation, preparation, preparation

Phone and check. It’s a small step which could save you money and disappointment. Some places cater easily for children, while others may not, and you’ll know what to take along if you’ve asked in advance. You’ll also have to coach your kids on how to behave, but, if you’ve taught them table manners at home, this won’t be a problem.

What’s on the menu?

A child’s tastes range from eating everything in sight to surviving for weeks on just tomatoes. First prize for family dining is a restaurant which has a wide range of child-friendly food on a kids menu, with smaller portions which won’t assault their young palates. Pictures on the menu will help them choose. Tip: Ask for juice/cooldrink or milkshakes in a paper take-away cup with a lid and straw- fewer chances of broken or spilled glasses that way.

Why are we waiting?

While adults attempt to chat, children need boredom-busters. Many restaurants offer a variety of distractions, ranging from supervised or unsupervised play areas, place mats with dough or crayons and paper. Unless you’ve checked to make sure there’s something for them to do, take paper and pens so they can draw, or a toy which isn’t too loud and doesn’t have pieces which can go missing.

Don’t ask too much
A restaurant is a finely-tuned machine, designed to reproduce certain meals served a certain way. They may not be able to adjust menu choices, or produce plastic bowls and cups for you. Check beforehand if they can, or bring whatever you may need along- a special spoon or bowl from home may help your child to eat the food you’ve ordered for them. Also, check if it’s ok to whip out a container of home-made food if you’re not ordering off the menu for the little one. It’s almost always fine, but polite to check.

Consult the chairperson

You wouldn’t want to sit at a place where your nose is level with the table, and neither does your child. Check if there are special chairs available, or relatively high benches. You may even want to take a booster seat or a cushion. If there’s a chance that your baby will sleep, make sure there’s enough space in the restaurant for a pram, so the waiter and other patrons won’t bump into it.

Tell your friends

If the service is good, the food great, and you’ve enjoyed yourselves- tell other parents! We’re all on the lookout for somewhere new, fresh or reliable to go to. And if your waiter has made a special effort to ensure you and your kids have enjoyed it, reward him- that’s a parenting tip he’ll definitely appreciate.

Last note: Going to a restaurant does require some discipline. If your child is going through a difficult phase, then a picnic or braai may be more suitable, or you’ll end up having to endlessly correct bad behaviour which will be unpleasant for both of you.

Do you have any other tips for moms and dads desperate to get out of the kitchen?
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