Planning on dining out with the kids?
You are enjoying catching up with your friend, who you haven’t spoken to for ages, until they casually drop into the conversation,
Let’s meet up for dinner, oh and bring the kids
Scenes of meltdowns, spilt drinks and pizza smeared walls, basically the stuff of nightmares, instantly flash through the mind but you hear yourself agree and set a date.
The ensuing panic and dread are normal, you are not alone.
Dining out with kids doesn’t have to be a disaster waiting in the making. It can be an opportunity to develop their social skills. Skills such as waiting, ordering and table manners and to a spend quality time with them.
A few ideas from a Mum who’s been there,
Before you go
- Choose a restaurant that has something on the menu that you know your kids will like and that you feel comfortable taking your kids to. (no that doesn’t have to mean a fast food chain!)
- Avoid going at times when you know your kids are going to be tired or very hungry.
- Talk to them ahead of time about what to expect: when you are going, who will be there, what will happen. Use visuals such as picture schedules here if they need help with communication.
- Set two or three expectations for behaviour before you go and phrase them positively. Examples might be “use a quiet voice and sit on your chair.” Make sure that your children understand these and remind them of them just before you go in to the restaurant.
At the restaurant
- Frequently praise your children for the behaviours you like to see, “I like how you are using your quiet voice.”
- Give your kids small snacks while they wait (breadsticks and raisins were favourites with my own kids)
- Have engaging activities at hand to keep the kids entertained while you wait to be served. A bottomless handbag full of paper and pencils, stickers, books and small toys, preferably without wheels or sound effects, is invaluable. ( I spy, noughts and crosses, hangman and square it were just a few of our favourite waiting games)
Leave while the going is good – before your children start to get fed up.
And if your dining out experience does turn out to be a little nightmarish, and it probably will, don’t be put off. Make sure there is a next time.
Being a parent is a never ending learning experience so focus on what did go well. Small successes, like the kids sat well for the first five minutes, are worth celebrating! Think of one thing you could do differently to make the next time more successful.
Then set a date and dine out with your kids again.
After all, how else are you going to get the material for all those embarrassing stories to tell your kids future partners and their own children?!
Read more about developing your child’s skills such as, “Setting the table with your kids“