I saw this infographic floating around the realms of Facebook recently... and found it to be extremely funny and to a certain extent, true as well.
Because if you have toddlers (or older children), you will know that taking them out to eat is like rolling dice. Sometimes it is a good roll. Other times, the dice roll completely off the table and onto a nearby diner’s plate of pasta.
Luckily for us though, eating out with the monkies hasn't been too difficult.
Funnily enough, the worst memories of the wifey and I eating out as a family was back when the time when we only had Ash. He still holds the record among all 3 monkies of being able to sustain his crying THROUGHOUT the entire meal. It was so bad that the wifey and I alternated between taking him to play outside and devouring our own meals like stray cats feasting over a garbage can.
But when Ayd and Ale came along, that didn't deter us from dining out. To restaurants. With humans in them.
And I put that down to experience. Either that, or our skin has grown more than a few inches thicker since. But I would like to believe it is the former and while I proclaim to be no expert on the matter, I do think I have enough experience to offer up these real tips for surviving a restaurant with kids.
1. The right timing matters.
An overtired or over-hungry child is no fun for anyone, so hit your favorite spot in the late afternoon, or after your little one has had a nap. Because when kids are around, there is no such thing as being too early to eat lunch or dinner in a restaurant. Not forgetting that the restaurant will be quieter and you will less likely to disturb other diners too.
Also, resist the urge to feed them beforehand or to bring along their favourite snacks as this will be a surefire way to make them lose interest in eating by the time the food comes.
2. Location, location, location.
Choose family-friendly eateries, preferably one casual and loud enough to absorb any noise your children might make. And I do not mean solely the stuff of fast food restaurants.
There are plenty of family-friendly dining establishments out there, ranging from craft work, small play area to even the premise of playing with one's food. to keep everyone in the family happy and full. And what do you know, I even have a ready list HERE for reference!
3. Request for the kids’ food with yours – not before.
Many well-meaning servers offer to bring the kids’ food out first. That is a recipe for disaster. Because then, the kids will be finished, get all bored and are screaming to leave by the time your food arrives on your table.
Another thing I have found to be useful when I have just placed my orders is to take the monkies out of the dining place for a short stroll. This helps to dissipate some of the energy and they usually settle down more nicely once the food arrives. Do note, however that climbing under other people’s tables, removing other people’s cutlery from the table, or chucking crayons at people are NOT part of the stroll.
4. Bring distractions.
Do not expect your dazzling conversation to entertain the children. So do remember to pack a few toys, books, tools for coloring, or anything that will keep them quiet and seated. Failing which, you can take your pick of 8 games HERE to play with your kids while waiting for the food to arrive at the restaurant.
5. Bring along a giant sense of humor too.
As a rule, humor tends to cure all the stress that ails you when you take your kids out to eat. Happy parents make happy children. Grumpy parents equates to grumpy children.
So having realistic expectations will go a long way in ensuring that your dining out experience will be a good one. It is not realistic to expect a 2-year-old to sit still, conversing quietly, for an hour. Instead, think of the meal as an opportunity to be engaged with your children. This can mean playing games, talking, reading, and, most likely, at least a little walking around.
As with everything else, eating out with kids is very different than dining as a couple but if you are patient and prepared, it can be just as much fun.