Prior to having children my husband and I ate out at least once a week and really enjoyed this part of our lives. Since having children we do not go out as much due to money restrictions. However we still eat out at least twice a week and mostly that is with our children. Here are my top tips on taking children out to restaurants, which will hopefully make your meal out an enjoyable one and not a stressful one.
1. Choosing a Restaurant If your intending to take your children to a restaurant think about whether it would be suitable for children. Some restaurants are advertised as family restaurants, however other restaurants particularly expensive ones may not be so welcoming to children. Therefore when booking the restaurant make sure you mention that you have children, this then allows the restaurant to say that children are only allowed prior to a certain time or not at all. When we were in Skye on a holiday we booked into a restaurant and was told that they did not allow children, so it does happen.
If you are wanting to go out but unsure of how your children will behave then go to a family restaurant at first ie pizza hut or a brewers fayre. This will enable you to eat out but not feel too embarrassed or stressed if your child acts up. We generally go to these restaurant's with our children, we expect them to behave. However children can have bad days so if one of them acts up, we do not get too stressed and we are able to diffuse the situation.
2. Choosing the Right Time Our children tend to act up after 7 pm generally because they will be tired. We therefore generally book a table at lunch time or between 5 and 6. This is not only better for our children's moods but most people dining out at these times either have children or will not be surprised if children are present.
3. Be Prepared Some restaurants will provide some activities and crayons for colouring. However I always take a small colouring book and crayons (generally bought from a £1 shop). I also take a favourite toy, magazine or book. This enables your child to have some amusement as although going out for a meal is a treat for an adult this is not necessarily the case for a child, unless it's McDonald's!
4. Saving Money When I only had 1 child up until he was 18 months I use to take a yogurt some fruit and a chocolate. I would ask for a side plate and give him some of my dinner as well as the snacks I had brought him. Since having 2 young children I now just buy 1 children's portion and share it out. Neither of my children have big appetites and they always leave half of what is given to them. By sharing there is less wastage of food and extra money in my pocket.
5. Bribery What also works for my children and I am sure many parents have used this at some point is bribery. My children like to behave for a desert (usually ice cream). You may have other incentive methods at home such as sticker charts, or pebbles in a jar, by finding something that works for you and your child can be a powerful tool in encouraging good behaviour. As I have said my husband and I really enjoy going out for lunch and dinner and it is a treat when we do so, We find that these tips work for us and make going out as a family an enjoyable experience. Bon Appetit!