For some, it has been a while since you have brought your child to a restaurant, or maybe your next restaurant outing will be your child’s first one! With a bit of forward thinking and a few entertaining additions packed away in your bag, dining out with your toddler or older child will be a really great experience! I have put together a few handy tips to make this enjoyable for you and your child.
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Choose your cuisine
When you are deciding where to eat, I suggest picking a restaurant that serves the type of food your child will definitely eat. If your child loves pasta then look up your nearest child-friendly Italian restaurant - Italian cuisine is always a winner! With an array of pasta dishes and endless bread-sticks, there will definitely be something your child will enjoy. If you think your child might not respond well to restaurant food, practice at home with your child with a similar dish. For example, if you are going for Italian cuisine, try my Mummy Cooks Meatballs
Choose a casual setting
The more informal the better. Try to find a restaurant where spills and messes aren’t a big deal, the last thing you want to worry about is stained tablecloths and broken china! Most child friendly places are more than accommodating to parents and will generally sit you in a nice private corner away from the middle of the room. The more casual the restaurant, the more hustle and bustle it will have so you won’t need to worry about your child being too noisy. Remember to call ahead and check that they have high-chairs if you need one!
Time your visit
The best time to visit a restaurant with children is when they aren’t over-tired or over hungry. For an evening meal this is probably around 5pm. You can take advantage of the early bird options and still have your children back in bed for their usual bedtime! For toddlers, 20 minutes is about the most you can expect from them in a high chair, so if you find that your child is getting a bit unsettled, take them outside for a quick walk while you wait for your food to arrive.
Ordering for your child
Assuming you have chosen a child friendly restaurant, they will offer you a children’s menu. From experience, children's menus consist of nuggets & chips, sausage & chips or burger & chips! A restaurant meal is definitely a treat but don’t let that stop you offering your child a healthy option. For example, you could request chicken breast instead of nuggets or request a child sized portion of your meal minus the salt, sauce or dressing.
I also recommend bringing some pre-portioned snacks to offer your child while they wait for their main meal. Bring your portion pots with some quartered grapes or a vegetable muffin to keep your child satisfied.
Most child friendly restaurants provide sheets and crayons to colour - but this activity may not last too long so pack a few toys and books that your child enjoys and take them out when you start to notice that they are getting restless! Games like peek-a-boo or I spy are great for younger children and it also keeps phones and video games away from the table.
Dining out is a wonderful way to introduce your child to new experiences and surroundings. It teaches them how to behave in certain situations and opens them up to new flavours, sights and sounds. Most of all it is a family bonding experience and it can be lots of fun, so try to relax and enjoy it!
For more great travel advice, check out my Travel with Baby eBook. It is packed full of advice on feeding your baby or young child while on holiday or out and about. Whether it’s a day trip, an overnight stay in self-catering accommodation or a hotel or a few weeks' holidays, you can ensure your baby or young child is eating healthy, versatile meals while away from home. It also includes 12 new recipes suitable for travel - both during your journey and when you get to your destination.