Dining out was never a big thing when I was a kid – in fact I think some of the towns I lived in didn’t even have a restaurant. But these days are different. Though it may not be a regularly activity in your family, it is likely that there will be the day when you need to (or want to) take your kids out to a restaurant:
My top tips for taking kids to restaurants:
- Choose family friendly restaurants when possible – if unsure of the menu phone ahead to ask so you can choose something quick for your kids once you arrive. If dining during the day – pick a restaurant that has a kiddy corner.
- Consider where you sit. Sitting at a table near a wall takes you away from others, and often gives you a little nook where kids can sit on the floor and play after dinner.
- Pick your time – if younger children are too tired – you are better off not going. Don’t stretch them. Another aspect is to go early and make it an early night. Stretching children beyond their ability to cope does no-one any favours. Be creative if you want to continue your night out with friends – buy a special icecream and go home for dessert and coffee!
- Order your kids food first and ask for it to come out as soon as it is ready. Then peruse the menu leisurely for yourself.
- Have activities for the kids to enjoy at the table. We used to have books to read from the time we placed orders till the food came out. After dinner, if we were lingering the kids would sit and colour or continue to read. This kept them occupied and gave the adults some conversation time.
- Take some time out and read a story to them – don’t ignore them – just because they may be quiet!
- Time their dessert for when they need a distraction – it doesn’t have to be in time with your dessert. You may not have dessert usually at home – make this as special treat.
- Take a Vegemite sandwich (of course Vegemite isn’t the key here – but take something the young kids will eat). Though it is good manners to order something from the menu, if food is too slow in coming out, or your kids throws a fit, familiar food may ease the situation. Use this to get your child through the unexpected but go expecting to order from the menu.
- When/if they become disruptive, take them out. Don’t let your ‘telling off’ be just as disruptive as their behaviour was in the first place! Be aware of other people also having a special night out. Don’t be nagging, bribing, or repetitive. Respond quickly and don’t let their bad behaviour escalate. Take them outside or to the bathroom to calm down and be ready to co-operate.
- Prepare them – practice at home – use your best manners at your own dinner table on a day to day basis.
I have a very few memories of eating at a restaurant when a kid. One time I remember being with a bunch of other teens at a family style restaurant and them not having a clue how to order, the different cutlery being laid out confused them, and they didn’t really try different foods (and complained about the food being fancy!) As a teen I remember being very thankful that my parents, though we didn’t eat out often, had taught me how to handle myself at a restaurant.
I also remember going out once as a family and Dad paying particular attention to teaching my younger brother how to phone ahead to make a booking, to introduce our family to the waiter (confirm the booking), and how to place order for us all (but Dad paid for the night!)
These two memories have helped me in teaching my older kids about restaurant behaviour. These things don’t have to be learnt in a fine dining setting – a local café gives teenagers the confidence and experience they need to then, one day, handle themselves in a restaurant.
- Phone ahead and make a booking
- Be confident in choosing something from the menu
- Speak up, loud and clear, when placing your order
- Ask questions if you need something different, or if you don’t understand the menu
- Know how to pay for your meal
Once when we were on holidays we were meeting up with some old time friends of Peter’s and mine. Both families were bringing our teens. My teens were dreading having to spend a few hours with kids they didn’t know. They took a few card games/board game with them as an ice breaker. They talked with each other over food, but then when things to talk about started to run out, they pulled out their card games – it was a bit hit! We need to give our kids the tools to handle social situations they find themselves in.
One other thing that kids need to know – of any age – is manners! Here are a few to consider:
- Look people in the eyes when talking
- Don’t talk with a mouth full
- Don’t hog the conversation, involve others – stop talking and give someone a chance, or ask someone to contribute
- Elbows off the table
- Don’t start eating until everyone is served (unless you are dining with a very large crowd where it is most likely people will eat as they are served)
- Don’t move on till everyone is finished
- If someone else is paying, be considerate and careful of the price before you order
- Make sure you say thank you if someone has paid for you
- Say thank you to the wait staff – and even pass on your compliments to the chef if you thoroughly enjoyed your meal
Restaurants are a great opportunity to have fun together but everyone has so much more fun if everyone – kids included – are behaving well!
Also sharing and linking with others:
Throughout the week I share with one, or more of these blogs (see more details on my Link Parties page)
Monday’s Musings, Thoughtful Spot, Mama Monday Musings, Hip Homeschool Moms Blog Hop, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Coffee and Conversation, Finishing Strong (Middle & Highschool years), Capture your Journey, Thriving Thursdays, Hearts for Home, Shine Blog Hop, All things with Purpose, A Little R & R, From House to Home, Fellowship Fridays, Homeschooling Highschool Linkup,Weekly Wrap-up, Collage Fridays, My Week in Review, Tip Tuesday with Debbie in Shape