Nick Duerden asks in an article in The Independent, earlier this month, if an evening out with decent food, good ambience – and young children in tow, is too much to ask? He suggests there’s a mentality in the UK that you shouldn’t eat out with toddlers. You can read the full article here.
I have also noticed quite a few recent posts on the blogosphere about Child-UNfriendly England. On one post “Is England Child-Unfriendly” by the lovely Heather from NotesfromLapland, one of my favourite bloggers, pretty much all the comments are of the opinion it is child-unfriendly.
Sorry people, I just don’t agree. BUT, it seems like I’m in a minority. Perhaps it’s because I live in the bubble that is Nappy Valley (Fulham) in the even bigger bubble, that is London, that I do think it’s child-friendly. But then again, I’ve always found places outside London to be great for kids as well.
What is everyone expecting exactly?
Taking eating out for example, yes, I think it’s harder to take young children out for a meal in the UK, when most of our evenings are cold, raining and dark. Who wouldn’t rather be at home in the warm? There aren’t very many restaurants that have outdoor space for the children to run around, like you find on the continent, either. So, perhaps that adds to the apparent mentality that you shouldn’t do it.
That said, WE do it regularly, especially in the Summer, and have done every since my 2 year old was a baby. It’s great to eat out as a family as we don’t often get the chance to at home and our 2 year old loves it too. Most restaurants do have high chairs (if not she sits on a normal seat) and many offer kids menus or will happily do a small version of a main dish. Every restaurant we’ve taken her to has been very welcoming. We even go to the very traditional Simpsons on The Strand each year (and have done since she was 2 months old) on Remembrance Sunday, because we do a big family lunch there. No one has ever complained.
Acting Their Age
I do think children should behave properly if you are eating out, which means they shouldn’t run around screaming. In the same way, I would expect my two year old to behave properly at mealtimes at home. Understandably, other diners might find children who do create havoc somewhat irritating, but that doesn’t mean little ones can’t act their age. In my experience, other customers don’t mind if they do.
We don’t chain our 2 year old to the table or tell her off for blowing bubbles in her drink, but she’s well-behaved, and actually, usually ends up making friends with half the restaurant. Eating out also teaches her to sit still for more than two seconds. We take things to keep her occupied like colouring books or her favourite toys in case she gets bored. And yes, we do also sometimes resort to bribery, usually along the lines of “there’ll be no ice-cream at the end if she plays up too much”.
This post focusses on eating out, but London as an endless list of places that are great for young children:
Most of the museums have fantastic sections for Under 5s. The Science Museum, Army Museum and V&A for example, are all surprisingly fun for younger ones. Plus, there are lots of playgrounds, soft play areas (Eddie Catz, Gambados), even members clubs for families such as Maggie and Rose, Purple Dragon, Cupcake Mum and so many parks within easy reach where you can let your kids let off steam.
Is it really that different in the rest of the UK?
If you disagree with me, and I’m sure plenty will, what would make Britain more child-friendly?