Before we had the kids, we ate out a lot. Probably too much! I know we all say silly things when we expect our first child about how life will not change just because we have a baby but I do think we stayed true to our promise that we didn’t want having a child to stop us eating out. We have just had to adapt the way in which we do it!
1. Time of day! We obviously can’t go for the 8pm reservations anymore! Nor the 7 or 6. We do sometimes do early tea but actually our best time of day for a family meal out is lunch. The restaurants are quieter and perhaps more patient with us and our noise, we are all a lot more patient and less tired. As well as lunch we do love a late breakfast too!
2. Entertainment. This is not a judgement just a personal preference that we do not use iPads or phones in restaurants. Ok our children are young so this may change but we generally have found this no problem to adhere to. We take a bag full of entertainment. Stickers, colouring and reading books are all good. My son doesn’t really do long periods of time colouring anymore so actually a few little characters (the busy book characters are great) send him off into his little world quite nicely for a bit. Now he is beginning to read he also likes to look through the menu with us too.
3. Toilet timings. Our strategy tends to be that we order food first. Then we go to the toilet, it takes up some of that food waiting time and gives us a chance to look around the restaurant. Quite often we take a little walk wherever possible in that time. In the same way when we are out with family or friends we often use the toilet as a chance to walk off the excitement or cheekiness that builds!
4. Practise! We have practised eating out since the children were young. We may be quite brave but we took our son at 5 months to a Michelin starred restaurant for lunch and they even heated his lunch for me! The other thing we practise is the sitting at the table at home and expectations of dinner times. It just means the children know to sit there and use a knife and fork etc. As a bonus it is such a valuable time for us all to talk too, especially when you eat out you may have been busy doing exciting things beforehand.
5. Expectations. We don’t expect the children to sit down for the whole duration of the meal out, we don’t expect them to be quiet, we don’t expect them to like all the food, Therefore we aren’t disappointed when that inevitably doesn’t happen. Instead we lay out our expectations before (usually with ice cream promised at the end!) and we try not get embarrassed by their behaviour. Most people totally get it and frankly I am too busy eating or spending time with my family to notice anyone getting snooty about it.
I always try to remind myself that we are paying customers in these places, yes I often do a wet wipe around and I always thank or very britishly over apologise as we leave. But most importantly, we don’t return to anywhere that made us feel uncomfortable and that currently, is a very small list. We still love eating out, obviously it’s not AS relaxing or slow paced as it used to be but we enjoy the food and the kids love it too. What are your tips for eating out with kids? How about older children?