Eating out is meant to be a relaxing, delicious event, yes? Well, when you have young children it isn’t always the case. My husband loves to eat out, I find that I need to be in the right mood. Eating out with my tribe of kids (Miss K age 6.5, J-boy aged 3 and Etty just 1 yr) requires a military operation of packing bags, finding shoes, brushing hair, finding toys and by the time everyone is in the car I’m ready for a nap. I am the one that has the noisy kids that will not sit still and talk politely, the one everyone looks at, I like to think they are looking over and thinking how adorable my children are, but I’m probably deluded!
So here are my top tips for eating out with small people:
- Leave them behind! I’m only half joking. If you want a calm, relaxing meal where you can hold an adult conversation then having a child-free meal could be the answer.
- Choose somewhere that is family friendly. Somewhere that it is ok to make noise, to make a mess and to get down from the table. My kids do not sit still and they need something to look at, somewhere they can talk noisily and somewhere they can walk/jump/dance around. For us Sainsburys cafe, community cafe’s and Wagamama’s are a hit.
- Check the menu before you go. Is there food suitable for the whole family? This doesn’t have to mean a children’s menu as such, just a balanced meal option your child will enjoy. There is no satisfaction over ordering a meal and your child refusing to eat it. A starter, a selection of side dishes or sharing an adults meal between a couple of children can work well. In fact, my children are not fans of the standard nugget and chips children’s fare. When the adult meal arrives and looks yummier they are not impressed and just eat mine. There go my prawns.
- Set the expectations. I tend to explain before we set out where we are going, how I expect them to behave and what type of food we will be ordering. I then repeat it when we get there.
- Pack a bag. Toys that you can play with at the table, colouring bits, stickers, a book and snacks. I always have something to tide them over until the meal
arrives in case it is a long time. You know you don’t want a grouchy, tired child on your hands.
- Do not expect them to be perfectly behaved. They are children, they are meant to be noisy, they are meant to be active, they are meant to have fun. If you are ready for them to be this way then it is a nice surprise if they do sit quietly!
- Breath and remember they are only young for a short, short time. Enjoy the moment and relish not having to wash up and leaving the mess behind.
“This too will pass, so enjoy the moment”