Even if you attempt to avoid dining at nice restaurants due to having small children, there are always going to be occasions that pop up that are unavoidable. Your family has been invited to a wedding. Your father is having a “big number” birthday. There’s a family reunion. These are special occasions that call for a non-fast food dining experience typically. And you have small children.
Many of us have experienced the BC (before children) experiences where we were at a sit-down restaurant and someone’s child was screaming, throwing food, or running around. We held the seat of judgment and sniffed, “My child will never behave that way in public!” Then we became parents. Dining at a sit-down restaurant can be a lovely or harrowing few hours. With a bit of planning, it can be the fun time it’s meant to be. Use these suggestions to have a fabulous dining experience.
#1: Plan Ahead, Call Ahead
Call the restaurant where you plan to eat and ask about kid-friendly items. What type of high chairs and/or booster seats do they have? How high are the tables and chairs? Are there changing tables in the rest rooms? Is there a dedicated place for you to be able to nurse or take a child who is overwhelmed and needs a few quiet moments?
Most importantly, ask about the food served. Is there a kids’ menu of smaller portions? Is “sharing” meals allowed? Is there an extra cost? Will a server or the kitchen staff be able to heat a bottle or jar of baby food for you? If your child has a food allergy, explain to the manager you will be bringing his/her food to make certain he/she safely eats.
#2: Check out the Area First
Many businesses now have online websites, Facebook pages, Snapchats, and other social media sites. Check out the photos or even stop by for a pre-dinner scope of the main dining area. How big are the aisles? Will a high chair be accommodated in the middle of the room, or should you request (before hand) a corner or against the wall table?
Read the reviews from other diners, too, especially those who mention taking their children. What are their tips? It might be beneficial to hear from someone who has been-there-done-that and can give you invaluable advice. If you can’t find a review that mentions children, call and ask the manager his/her recommendations for your children.
#3: Make it Fun
Young children are known for many things, but patience is not one of them! Waiting for a meal can be an almost overwhelming and unbearable experience for your child (and for you). How can you make this time pass faster and with less stress?
Take several things for your child to do. Those restaurant coloring pages and crayons seem to be completed quickly so don’t depend on them. Take a special game or toy for your child. Holding his or her interest in an activity besides just sitting and waiting will be much more enjoyable for everyone.
A restaurant in my town just opened a very fancy establishment with sit-down meals and “high tea” for special occasions. The best part is that they installed a sound proof play area for young children to enjoy while their meals are prepared. How ingenious is that? It is obvious that the owners are parents! Until this kid-friendly trend catches on, hopefully the above guidance can help you and your fellow diners have a wonderful night out.