If you have small children aged 5 and under then you may find dining out with them stressful at times. Admittedly some parents starting eating out with their kids quite young so they are well trained, but my kids definitely need a bit of help to keep them interested and co-operative in a restaurant environment. Remember – all kids are different!
I nearly always look ahead to see what will be available whenever we go somewhere new. You can sometimes find this kind of information out online. For example when we were considering a trip to Liverpool, I went to www.liverpool-one.com/food-and-drink/ to check out some of the restaurants and child-friendly food options beforehand
So here are some of my top tips for staying sane when eating out with a few little ones:
1. Take toys!
I know this is an obvious one, but it’s a schoolboy error to not take some toys and things to keep with them amused when you dine. At the end of the day, kids have good and bad days and if they are tired or aren’t feeling great they may be more fussy than normal. If you are dining with friends this is even more important if you want to chat.
Depending on your child’s age a selection of toys you might want to take include:
Colouring in books
Magnetic drawing pad
Simple small puzzles
Yes, the iPad
The key is to pick quiet toys with minimal mess.
2. Take food
It depends on the age of your child if they are breastfeed or taking the bottle, or they may eat restaurant food or they may be too fussy too. Either way make sure you have snacks that they enjoy but are also low sugar so they aren’t bouncing off the walls. I usually take:
Breadsticks or cheese twists
Oaty bars made for children (so there’s no nuts or hard pieces)
Fruit like Banana
Water or squash they like
If your child has food allergies you must obviously be extra careful and remember to tell the staff if this is so.
3. Look up the place beforehand
I know that there will be times you dine spontaneously and thats ok too – but if you are planning ahead it’s good to check out if the place is child friendly. The UK is excellent for child facilities (trust me – when we went to Paris, there were barely ANY child changing rooms anywhere) but it doesn’t hurt to see if there are suitable changing areas and room for your buggy for example.
Also have a look and get a vibe for the place – do they play loud music? Are you kids ok with this? Some children are very sensitive to noise. Will your child or baby be ok sleeping gin it?
You can of course make a reservation and mention you have kids and aim to go at times when it is less busy (ie. not during lunch times when workers will be there(.
4. Knowing when things are going to blow up
Toddlers are toddlers – to say that you can predict their behaviour at all times is ridiculous. But you know if they start to get tired or there’s something they are annoyed about that can manifest itself in other ways.
One thing I do not allow is my kids to wander around disturbing others who are dining or to get in the way of waiting staff. If there are two of us there sometimes one parent may take the baby outside to have a wander if they are restless. If you don’t have assistance, and you’ve given them their food and toys but they are still having an almighty tantrum – accept that it might not be the day for this – there’s always a doggie bag and you can try again another time to get your kids used to dining.
5. Tidy up after yourself
It’s almost inevitable sometimes that kids can make a mess – knocking their biscuits over the floor or dropping bits. I make a point of picking up any thing we have left afterwards and showing the older child to do this too so they minimise the mess for the waiting staff.