Eating out with kids - our top tips, collected over the parenting years.
With the longer summer evenings finally here, we find it more tempting to eat out as a family when possible. With the last two summers of restrictions and obstacles, we have certainly noticed that the experience is more unfamiliar for our youngest and it can be a little overwhelming for her in new places. This got us thinking, so we’ve put together a few tips that we find really help to us have the best experience of eating out with kids as possible (whilst always remembering to manage those expectations of course!)
1) Pack a survival kit
Meal times eating out take much longer than eating at home. Your little one is not likely to be used to sitting at the table without food in front of them, so pack some entertainment. Compact games / small toys work well – though not too small – no one wants to be under the table looking for small Lego pieces – learnt from experience! Packing their favourite cutlery can also give them the comfort and confidence to eat in an unfamiliar place – and very few restaurants offer proper children’s cutlery (there's a whole thread about it on Mumsnet).
2) Give them some notice
Like us, children like to know what’s happening and giving them an advance warning helps them to prepare themselves for what to expect. Time feels very different for little ones so telling them the day before or on the morning of an evening meal out works best – too much notice is confusing and sets you up for being asked a million times “are we going now?..” And no one wants that!
3) Dress for dinner!
We like to choose our outfits for a meal out and it’s wise to have a think about what your little one is wearing also. Will they be comfortable? Will it start to stress you out if they’re getting sauce all over a white top? Dressing them practically is more relaxing for everyone – perhaps pack a change of clothes if it’s a special occasion so you don’t have to worry about mess during the meal.
4) Choose your destination
Places with a kid’s menu are a good place to start. The happier the restaurant is to have kids in it, the more relaxed you all will be. Checking the menu online ahead of your visit can also help, giving you some advanced notice of foods you know your child will enjoy.
5) Toilet before you start
Although sometimes inevitable, no one likes to hear “I need the toilet!’” just as your plate of hot food is placed in front of you. Going when you arrive is a good way to try to avoid this, as well as giving the opportunity for a good hand wash.
AND A BONUS NUMBER 6…
6) Choose your timing
POSSIBLE THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP YET! Friday evenings after a long week of work and nursery? Probably not the best set up for a successful and stress free meal out! Tired children do not make the best dinner companions. If possible, try to choose a day when they will be more rested and therefore meltdowns less likely!