Eating out with your kids is an excellent way to enjoy some quality time together! However, sometimes it can get a little chaotic, especially if you’re the solo parent. Here are some tips to make your dining experience more enjoyable.
Before going out, take some time to do a trial run. Go over proper dining etiquette with your children. You can use stuffed animals to act as other dinner guests. Also, be sure to model good behavior, such as using utensils. To help these lessons stick, emphasize proper manners at the dinner table.
Here are some table manners to teach your children before going out to eat:
- Chew with your mouth closed
- Take small bites
- Say please and thank you
- Use utensils and napkins
- Try new foods
You want to find a kid-friendly restaurant. Look for a place that has menu items you know your kids will eat. Consider a menu with simple flavors and a variety of options. Also, look for places that have minimal wait times for ordering and receiving your food.
If you have younger children, you may want to skip fancier restaurants. These restaurants tend to have more expensive tablecloths. Since kids make messes, find a place where you can easily clean up spills.
Besides the menu, consider the restaurant’s atmosphere. Busier places help divert attention away from your table. The activity can also give your kids something to watch. Finding a restaurant with entertainment will help keep your kids occupied. Some places may have TVs, tablets, or coloring books. These can be good sources of distraction while kids are waiting for their food.
When choosing the right restaurant, look for these other kid-friendly amenities:
- Changing station
- Cups with lids
- Play areas
Children have shorter attention spans than adults. The increased use of technology has further shortened children’s attention span. This is why you want to find a restaurant that is less crowded. Suppose the wait for a table is long, you should consider trying another place. If your kids become impatient, it can make your dining experience less enjoyable.
Also, think about how long your food will take to prepare. Suppose you go to your local pizza shop. You might want to order the thin crust pizza instead of the deep dish to save some time. To help limit wait times, consider asking if your kid’s meals can come out first.
Plan to dine out early. This way, your kids aren’t overly tired or hungry. Eating early can help to prevent any mid-meal meltdowns. Also, it can help to reduce the chance of longer wait times. Even if you’re not hungry at the moment, factor in the time it takes to drive to the place and order food. Also, consider the time of the week. You may want to go out for an early dinner on a Monday or Tuesday.
Dining earlier can also help to make sure your kids get enough sleep. For example, if you have a toddler, they need 11-14 hours of sleep to function. A school-age child needs around 9-11 hours.
Waiting for food can make your younger children impatient. This is why you want to have things to keep them occupied. Some restaurants may have kids’ activities, but it’s good to be prepared. Bring coloring books or small puzzles to help keep them distracted. You can even play games, like I Spy, to engage the whole family.
Try to find activities you can do together instead of giving them your phone or tablet. Too much screen time can impact a child’s language and communication skills. It can also make it harder for kids to sleep.
Here are some toys to keep your child occupied, besides a phone:
- Silly putty
- Rubik’s cube
- Crayons and paper
Ordering an appetizer is one of the fun parts of dining out. Although, sometimes, it can be a longer wait time. Try to order your kid-friendly appetizer as soon as you are seated. To save time, look at the menu before you go out.
In case the starter does take time, bring along bagged snacks for your children. Try to portion them out beforehand so your kids will still have room for dinner.
You want to make sure you’re giving your kids enough attention. Try to include everyone in the conversation. Use the time to check in with your children. Life can get busy, so try to be fully present in the moment. Also, if your kids aren’t getting enough attention, they may act out. This could be in the form of a temper tantrum.
Along with keeping them calm, here are some other benefits of family bonding time:
- Builds children’s self-esteem
- Strengthens family bonds
- Develops positive behaviors
- Encourages communication
- Increase children’s academic performance
Dining out is a fun way to get your family outside the house. It also creates lasting family memories. However, eating out with just you and the kids can be a lot. Consider these tips to make your next dining experience a successful one!