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Going to a restaurant - how do I make it more enjoyable?

Ask most parents about eating in a restaurant with a child aged two to four years, and most will tell you that they wouldn’t dream of it! The mere thought of food being thrown at other diners, or mid meal tantrums is enough to force many families to eat only at home. However, it is possible to make dining out with a preschooler easier, and even enjoyable – the trick is to prepare in advance.

Pack a bag for the restaurant that includes toys, books and other things that your child enjoys, and that will keep him or her interested and occupied. Adding a few of your child’s favourite snacks can help too. After all, if the food takes a while to be served, or your child decides that he or she doesn’t like it, you’ll need to offer an alternative.
Fine dining is also not an option when you’re eating out with young children. Stick to family friendly restaurants that cater to children of this age. Most will have activities on hand for children, as well as child friendly options on the menu. A little noise and energetic children won’t be out of place, and they’re usually casual enough to avoid any embarrassment.

Buffets are a great choice when you’re dining out with children. There are plenty of options to choose from, so if your child is a picky eater, there will be something he or she likes. It’s also easier to take a little walk with a restless preschooler when everyone else is milling around too.

Prepare for the occasion in advance. Before you go to a restaurant for the first time, make sure that you’ve at least started teaching your child table manners. Make sure that you tell your child what will be happening at the restaurant, and offer your child a special treat if he or she behaves particularly well.

Choose food options that are quick to prepare, and that you know your child likes. If your child is hungry when you arrive, ask for crackers or bread to keep him or her busy while you wait. You could also make visiting a restaurant a time for special treats – like soda. This will mean that your child looks forward to eating out as much as you do.

When it comes to the waiting staff, be sure to be considerate and appreciative. Try not to make too many demands or complaints – remember – they work hard for their money! Avoid confrontations, either with your child, other patrons or the service staff, if at all possible, and make sure that you plan your forays to restaurants for days that both you and your partner can be present. It makes co-ordinating and controlling things a lot easier when there are two people present!

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