Not Spaghetti Again!

by Calgary's Child Magazine

Going out for dinner is the easiest way we know to tame the “What’s for Dinner”  battle cry. A night out at a restaurant can be a big treat for everyone in the family. We’ve heard many stories from families (the good, the bad and the ugly), about their restaurant experiences.  So from the trenches, we present our favorite restaurant survival tips.

First, identify family-friendly restaurants in your area — does it have a children’s menu, high chairs, booster seats, crackers and crayons available?

Before you even step out of the car, outline your expectations to your children about good restaurant behavior, but keep them simple. The use of inside voices, the importance of staying seated at the table (no running through the restaurants) and good manners are our three staples.

Don’t hesitate to cut your dinner short and leave if your children don’t behave. It’s our experience, that you only need to leave one restaurant one time and the children learn that you are serious about these expectations.

Breakfast and lunch are an ideal time to introduce your children to restaurants and teach them the rules. With lower prices, and faster service, it’s often easier to enjoy a successful outing.

Cafeterias and buffets offer a large selection of food making them excellent choices for picky eaters and provide instant gratification for hungry children.

Children’s menus can sometimes become tiresome for diehard restaurant goers, so for a change try ordering off the appetizer menu for your child's main dish. And for those with big appetites, some restaurants will bend the rules and let your children order off the senior’s menu.

Hungry children are not patient. Eat a half an hour before your child's regular dinner time to reduce fussing. Ask your server for crackers while you are waiting for your meal.

When you arrive, order the children’s food immediately even if you’re not ready yet to order yours yet. If the restaurant is busy, this will ensure yours child’s order gets in early. They’ll have lots of time to linger over desert, while you finish your main course.

Take along a coloring book, a small quiet toy to play with or a book to read at the table.  Some inventive parents we know pack a special restaurant bag with toys and treats that only comes out at the restaurant.

Keep your children entertained with simple games, like ‘I Spy, or playing tic-tac-toe with the sugar packages. Our children even polished up on math skills by learning to add creamers and sugar packages.

A trip to the bathroom can be a good distracting technique for a restless child. Try going after you order and before the food arrives — it might save a trip in the middle of the meal.

If your child isn’t drinking from a regular cup yet, don’t forget to bring their sippy cup and we always pack a washcloth or pre-packaged wipes to help cleanup during or after the meal.

And finally, leave soon after your meal is finished. As much adults might like to linger over dessert and coffee young children cannot sit still.

Bio: Ellen is the publisher of Calgary's Child Magazine, Calgary's favorite and must trusted parenting magazine. For more information, you can pick up Calgary's Child Magazine free at hundreds of locations in and around Calgary and connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.
Image credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

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