Mmmm….food! Who doesn’t love eating a delicious meal? Food provides some of the best pleasures of life. That’s why I love this meme from @gaugegirltraining:
Eating out as a family can provide a perfect time to bond as a family. Kids can love eating out, too. Some of my favorite memories are of special restaurants my family went to. My brother still talks about vacations based on food. Eating out can be a special treat with undivided time from their parents. It is a new adventure. But, eating out can also be really difficult, as shown from this meme from tunabil.com:
So, what do you do when eating out with kids feels like this meme? I love these tips from chefs. The chefs interviewed Vogue.com offers such great suggestions about how to start eating out when your kids are young, ways to entertain your kids, and help them experience new foods.
Tip one that the chefs offered was to start eating out with kids early- both when they’re young and early in the evening. When you start eating at a time that is still far away from bedtime then it is more likely that they will not be cranky. Pretty obvious, right?
When you start the routine of eating out when they’re young then they’ll start incorporating it into their routines and memories. They’ll hopefully be more likely to enjoy eating out as a family once they become teenagers because they’ve had so many fun memories at restaurants with you through the years. My family still talk about some of the restaurants we ate at when we were younger: the decadent chocolate cake and the live lobster that startled my brother at a steak house we went to…The delicious Italian food at Bruno’s Restaurant (the name of our dog)…The fun all-you-can eat buffets with grandma…And so many more memories! Also, when you start eating out with children when they are young, they will start learning before rather than later what manners are expected. At least, that’s the hope….Sometimes it may not seem that way.
Tip two is to plan ahead. Make sure that your diaper bag or purse is full of things you may need before the food arrives. That way, your young child won’t get too antsy or grumpy because he or she is too hungry. It helps to have gold fish crackers in our diaper bag for us to feed our toddler before the food arrives. Tip 5 is similar: make sure you pack distractions that you can use if things are starting to turn in a not-so-good direction.
Tip three is to make eating out a new, fun experience by meeting new people, learning about different ingredients, or trying new foods. One way to do this that my family always did growing up is to order an adult meal and split it between kids instead of buying a few kids meals of chicken tenders. We absolutely loved it because we tried delicious new foods. I think it contributed to our love of food as an adult.
Tip four is about using your imagination to come up with ways to entertain kids that don’t involve phones or technology. Create games or make up fun conversation topics. This again helps them create a bank of positive memories and strengthens the relationship with you. Similar to this is the advice in the article to talk to your kids at the table. This teaches kids that interacting with people at the dinner table is important. It sends a message of love, undivided attention and value to your children. And, as a parent you learn about and become more involved in their lives. Click here to learn more about what the research says about the importance of family dinners.
The last tip is to break the rules a little. Who doesn’t like ordering a fancy dessert, even though you wouldn’t normally have dessert at home that night? This again makes it a fun experience and more likely that your children will associate eating out with positive experiences instead of throwing tantrums.
Also, remember that you are not alone. Of course, it’s important to step out with your child if they’re truly disrupting others, but most people will understand when their manners aren’t yet worthy of eating with the queen. And yes, probably everyone will have to step out at one time or another if you have a habit of eating out with kids. But, when you make a habit of starting young, as they suggested, then it will eventually become smoother.