Top Tips for Eating Out with Little Ones

by 21stcenturymummy on June 29, 2010

Following on from my recent post: Is London Really The Child-UNfriendly?, for those  mums who are terrified to take out there little ones (and I know a few), here are some easy things you can do to help make sure you can take them out so everyone has a good time and you don’t come home feeling frazzled.

Start young: Take them out as babies and try to do it fairly regularly – it could be a once-a-month family meal. The more often you do it, the more they will get used to it.

Plan Ahead: Think about where you’re going to take them. Pizza places (Pizza Express, Zizzi, Ask), chains like Giraffe, and informal local restaurants and brasseries are usually good bets. Look for ones that have a buzzy atmosphere, then your child can make some noise without you worrying.

Essential Items: Kids cutlery, bibs and beakers (if they need them) – I always forget cutlery so my poor toddler has to try to manage with adult knives and forks.

Take things to occupy them: It’s understandable they may get bored waiting for food, so take a bag of books, colouring books and small toys.

Arrive Early: Arrive a little before your child’s usual eating time to give time for the food to arrive. The later you arrive, the more tired and  hungry your little one will be, especially in the evening. Plus you will avoid the rush.

Book in advance: This will ensure you won’t have to wait for a table with a fidgety child or even be turned away.

Order their food immediately: So they don’t get bored waiting, make sure their food comes first (or it comes with your starter if you’re having one). Get them some bread to nibble on if they’re getting hungry.

Let them choose: It will make them feel involved if you let them choose what they’re going to eat. Give them a couple of options and make sure it’s something you know they like. I usually order mash rather than fries for my 2 year old, but my OH often has fries (which of course she loves) so she shares some most of his. If they don’t have a kids menu, then get a small portion of an adult dish. Most kids love pudding, so let them have something to look forward to. (Yes bribery does work!)

Realistic expectations: Don’t worry if they haven’t got perfect manners. If they do get fidgety, take them outside for a change of scenery for 5 minutes.

If all else fails: Finally, if your child does have a meltdown, don’t be afraid to end your meal. You could always ask for a doggie bag and take your leftovers home. Give it some time and then try taking your child out to a restaurant again. As I mentioned earlier, the more you go out, the easier it gets and the more well-behaved your child will be.

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