Most people like to eat out at a restaurant. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of it. Folks also have very different ideas about what constitutes being called a restaurant. Even though fast-food restaurants use that word, don’t try to take me to one and call it a date. But I digress. When eating out, I expect to be able to enjoy myself, as much as possible while seated in a room full of total strangers. If you are thinking about bringing children to a real restaurant, please consider these few tips before you go.
Tip #1: Consider your purpose. Why are you planning to go to a restaurant? Is there some family event or are you just trying to avoid cooking dinner? Family gatherings can be fun, but make sure kids are included in the invite. (Here’s where a flexible caregiver can help!) If you just don’t want to cook, think frozen food, or at least choose a restaurant that is family-oriented, which leads to my second piece of advice.
Tip #2: Consider your options. So you’re going out. Where to take the family? Choose family – friendly as opposed to fancy when you’re taking the kids. Most chain restaurants are very family friendly, as are many locally-owned places. Please think about your fellow-diners when choosing where to take your children. If your kids will need toys and videos to occupy them while they wait, stay away from upscale places! If my husband and I are having a date night at a fancy place, we definitely don’t want to be interrupted by your cuties or have to listen to the latest kids’ movie either.
Tip #3: Consider their ages and stages. If your kids are school-aged and have been taught table manners, by all means, take them to a nice place. If your kids are still little and learning, please take them to a fast food place or teach them some manners at home! Emily Post has great advice. Kids should be taught to sit quietly and eat or participate in conversation, but not everyone is like me and has dinner around the table just about every night. I think children need opportunities to behave in a restaurant, but start small and slow before taking them someplace they’ll embarrass you or cause a scene.
The Wall Street Journal recently published some similar advice in an article, but I cannot agree with all of it. Plan to arrive a half hour before your child’s normal meal time is their best advice, but I think little ones need to build up to longer meals (they suggest no more than two hours!) and should practice at family-friendly places before expecting a successful experience at an upscale restaurant. Keeping children completely away from a restaurant experience will only prolong the inevitable, if you are to teach them how to socialize and eat a meal. Dragging kids to places they aren’t ready for will result in ruining your night and maybe mine! Eating out can be a fun and even educational experience for families with children, but for Pete’s sake, please choose wisely and find the right match for your kids.