Eating out with kids doesn’t have to be stressful, so long as you prepare for it. We are currently on holiday while I write this post and have been eating out twice per day with our 1, 5 and 8 year old. At the beginning it was a bit tricky as we hadn’t eaten out as a family for so long, but over the last week, I have picked up some terrific tips for eating out with kids. Whether you are going away or having a staycation, I hope you’ll find these tips useful too.
Get the timing right
The first meal we had on this holiday was a bit of a let-down (to say the least) because we got the timing all wrong! My 1 year old was clearly exhausted and had probably got too hungry too and had a complete meltdown when her food arrived.
Getting the timing right for your family meal can make such a difference. Make sure you eat out at a time where they won’t be too hungry and are well rested. We all know what ‘hanger’ is and believe me, it is ten times worse for a toddler!
Booking ahead can make all the difference. Firstly, you won’t find yourself wandering in and out of restaurants trying to find somewhere that has space for your party. Secondly, it will ensure that you stick to the schedule in terms of not going out too late (before the kids get ‘hangry’) and thirdly, if you have any special requirements, you can let the restaurant know beforehand.
It will also encourage you to do your research beforehand when choosing a restaurant. If dining somewhere with renowned chefs is your thing, or having dinner with an amazing view is your priority, then you can find out all of this beforehand.
You can also find out about hygiene ratings, which is especially relevant at the moment. Square Meal now shows hygiene ratings on all listings so can be really helpful with deciding which restaurant is the best for you and your family.
Bag of tricks
You know what they say – fail to prepare, then prepare to fail! I always stand by this motto and now always ensure that I have a bag of tricks ready to keep the kids occupied if they are getting a bit tetchy. Obviously with a mixed range of ages, I need to have a few different things!
Here are some of the items I pack in my bag of tricks – UNO, top trumps, ‘colour by numbers’ colouring books, a toddler colouring book, packet of markers, a selection of pretend food, a few Happyland figures, a small pad of plain paper, a mini etch-a-sketch, a bag of toy soldiers.
I always find it better to lower my expectations so I won’t be disappointed. That goes for most things in life! Perhaps sit down with your older children beforehand and explain that you are going for a family meal and what your expectations will be. For example, if you want to have a screen-free meal, you need to let them know about this beforehand.
If you would like them to make it to pudding on best behaviour and perhaps then let them relax a little and play on your phone, that’s fine too – but just make sure they know how you expect them to behave beforehand. My boys are slowly getting used to eating out with us and I have found setting expectations before we go out does really help…
This is essential, especially for my toddler! She is usually fine once the food comes but when arriving at a restaurant and/or waiting for the food, she can be a little pickle! If she is really restless, I’ll sometimes take her for a little walk to avoid a tantrum – especially if we are eating alfresco. She tends to be a bit calmer with her dad, so will often sit on his knee until the food comes, and then we will put her in her highchair which she is happy enough with. If it is getting really bad, then we will sometimes resort to putting one of her favourite programmes on my phone.
The boys are getting easier to entertain and will often do some colouring while chatting to us and waiting for their food. We also like to play a few rounds of UNO and as they get older, it gets even more competitive!