Going out to eat with children can feel like a daunting task for parents. You want everyone to have an enjoyable meal, but kids can sometimes act out or get bored and fussy in restaurants. However, with some planning and the right approaches, eating out as a family in the UK can be relaxing and fun for all.
Choose Family-Friendly Restaurants
Seek out restaurants in your area that specifically cater to families. Many have kids’ menus with child-sized portions and simple dishes like burgers, chicken fingers, pasta or fish bites that tend to appeal to young palates. Some family eateries may even offer crayons or activity placemats to occupy little ones. When possible, opt for more casual dining spots which are more family friendly.
If you are fostering, you may wish to delay meals out until your foster children are fully settled, as this could be a stressful moment for them.
Time It Right
Try to make reservations for early meal times. The hours around 5 or 5:30 pm tend to be popular for families with small children who eat dinner on the early side. These off-peak times mean your family is less likely to feel disruptive to other diners, and tie in well with your child’s bedtime
Request a Table ASAP
Call ahead or ask your host/hostess upon arrival if you can be seated right away at your table. Let them know you have young children with you. Standing and waiting in the entry for long periods while hungry kids’ impatience mounts is not a recipe for success. Polite honesty about needing quick seating can help both the restaurant and your family.
Come armed with small toys, books, colouring supplies or tablets to keep kids occupied once you get settled. Quietly playing with stickers or reading a new book together promotes good behaviour. For younger toddlers, snack cups of cereal or crackers bought at the store can also buy you some time and prevent meltdowns. Pack more distracting activities than you think you might use.
Order Drinks and Appetisers Fast
Get your kids’ sippy cups, milk or juice orders in quickly along with chips, bread or veggies and dip for nibbling right away. Giving children something mollifying to eat and drink soon after sitting can help short-circuit fussing when their food takes longer to come out of the kitchen. Don’t let them fill up too much though!
Try New Foods
Encourage your children to attempt new things on the menu by making it a game. Offer a small taste of your dish and ask them to do the same. They might discover they love steamed broccoli or Thai noodles by getting adventurous. Be willing to order additional sides of “safety foods” they WILL eat should new items get rejected.
Don’t stress too much over spills, minor complaints from the kids or food ending up on the floor. Accidents happen…even meals that involve some tears or scolding don’t have to ruin your whole night. Staying relaxed yourself sets the tone for your children to follow suit. Smile often and roll with the disarray that dining with kids brings. Know that this too shall pass!
Eating out with youngsters really can work out nicely if you pick the right place, keep them occupied, plan ahead and remind them of incentives for good conduct. Watching your children grow in confidence and manners as restaurant patrons is very rewarding too! With flexible expectations and patience, family dining in the UK can make for special memories.