Children can be unruly at mealtimes and can make eating out less than relaxing for everyone in the dining room. So prepare them by trying these helpful techniques for a stress-free outing.
Everyone has had mixed experiences when dining out with children, whether it’s with their own or someone else’s. We have all undoubtedly been astonished by both stellar, as well as less than exemplary, behavior from these tiny humans. A dining experience can quickly go from good to bad with just one or two isolated incidents.
So, to help keep your sweet angels from coming off like little monsters when dining out, here is some advice from parents and servers alike on how to happily dine out in public with your littlest family members.
Tired and or hungry children can make for the most volatile situations. If you know that you are going to be eating out later in the evening, it is a good idea to make sure they’ve napped in preparation for a later evening. Feeding them even a little something beforehand is also a smart move in case the food happens to take a while or if they don’t care for their food when it does make it to the table. On the same note, back-up snacks aren’t a bad idea either.
Make a Reservation
Most children are not known for their patience. When planning to dine out, call and make reservations whenever possible. This way, the wee ones are not waiting for a table, then waiting for a server and then waiting for their food.
No Unaccompanied Walkabouts
Restaurant staff members move at a fast pace and are constantly multitasking. This means there are always heavy trays with multiple drinks and hot food quickly making their way through the restaurant. Though they are encouraged to always have their heads “on a swivel,” their line of sight is not trained to aim down. Small, unaccompanied and typically quick-moving children are therefore immediately in a danger zone. If your little ones wish to explore, take their hand and show them around while also emphasizing the importance of saying, “excuse me,” and giving a little lesson about the right of way.
Children cry; everyone knows this. However, it is important to remember that the other restaurant guests around you will only have so much patience for this audible intrusion on their dining experience. It also hinders the server’s ability to communicate with your party, potentially taking away from your own experience. If your child does begin to cry or act out, gently relocate them to a more private area while they calm down.
Entertainment and Attention
Children innately crave attention, and from a young age they are constantly trying to find ways to get it. If you are not able to engage your children in conversation or to give them the level of attention that they crave, come prepared with a bag of “distractions” including books and quiet toys. As a parent, you know about how long your children can stay occupied by one thing, so it is wise to plan accordingly.
Manners matter. A well-behaved child at home is more likely to have that same behavior transfer over into a public setting. Yes, there are always other variables that can come into play. But practice makes semi-permanent, and if a child is given guidelines for appropriate manners and behavior at home, it won’t be as much of a struggle when in public. It seems that in recent years, teaching manners such as “please, thank you, yes ma’am, no sir,” has declined. It is much appreciated by servers when much smaller humans treat them respectfully, which will in turn help your overall experience.
Preparing Children to Order for Themselves
From a server’s position, one of the more frustrating occurrences can be the seemingly simple act of taking a table's order. When a table says that they are ready to order then proceeds to debate various choices out loud, it can be frustrating. When it comes to children ordering for themselves, it can be even more stressful for everyone involved. If your little one wishes to tell the server their own order, have them practice what they will say to you first. Trying to decide on the spot if your child wants a burger or chicken fingers can be taxing. If there are dietary restrictions or preferences, make sure that you or your child makes these known from the beginning. It is also likely that, should your child need their food quickly, your server can happily accommodate.
Few things can bring down a server’s spirits more than having to pick up copious amounts of crushed crackers or sugar packets that have been thrown all over their section in the middle of the dinner rush. Yes, there is always going to be some level of mess from every table. But helping to contain this out of respect for the staff is so much more helpful than most people understand.
November is also the month for giving thanks, and we’ve got that covered as well. Whether you’re a Thanksgiving newbie or pro, this issue has all the recipes, tips, and techniques to make your holiday season easier, more delicious, and as sanity-saving as possible.
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