Of all of my nephews and nieces, they are all relatively well-behaved at restaurants and I truly think its important to socialize your children at public restaurants from when they are very small (toddlers) to help them learn how to behave properly and be more restaurant friendly. Just like riding a bike — after a few mishaps, your kiddos will learn to pedal correctly (and not ride into the bushes).
However, I completely understand parents who are very anxious and hesitant to bring their children out to dinner for fear of there being no “kid food” or getting fidgety or having a meltdown at dinner. Etc. here are some of my tips for making your kids more “restaurant-friendly”:
1. It all starts at home
Make meals fairly structured and most importantly, routine. Remember: Kids start out as a clean slate, so as parents, it is our responsibility to help them form good habits. Things to employ:
- Provide a variety on the plate – consistently. Even if it is one baby carrot stick and one apple slice, at least you are teaching them the importance of balanced nutrition.
- Stay away from foods and drinks high in sugar. Children are highly susceptible to highs and lows both mentally and physically when consuming high-sugar foods.
- Treats and sweets are just that, a treat. Keep them small (a small cookie) and offer them as a reward for eating properly.
- Have them ask to be excused from the table. This sets the tone of who is in charge.
CHECK OUT LE TOP CHILDREN AND BABY CLOTHING AT
2. Make meal periods interactive
At home they can help set the table, help choose the menu, and/or help prepare the food. This gives them a sense of involvement; they are invested in the meal.
At restaurants, let them choose what they would like to eat and bring a restaurant-appropriate activity.
Offer your child a toy, coloring book, small puzzle or similar activity to do at the table while waiting for the food. Bring extra items, letting your child play with one at a time to prevent him from getting bored.
3. Timing of Dinner
Don’t think you are going to visit a restaurant at the hip, hot hours when most people go out. Always go earlier. You’ll get a better table, beat the rush, and even if your child has an outburst, you’ll be bothering a much smaller amount of people. Also, opt to be seated in a booth whenever possible, so it will be easier for you to keep your child contained.
4. Make dining out sound like a special, rewarding and fun experience
Get them excited about the experience. If it is something to look forward to, they will want to do it again.
5. Discuss restaurant etiquette BEFOREHAND as it applies to children
Keep the rules simple and easy to remember:
- “Use our inside voices”
- “Stay in our seats”
- “Do not throw food” – keep your expectations low if they are less than three.
Again, use dessert as a reward for good behavior/eating. And be consistent – I cannot stress this enough! Also, be patient.
Give the restaurant a heads up that you are bringing children. This gives them a chance to select an appropriate table and perhaps assign a server that has a better disposition for serving families.