As someone who absolutely loves trying new food, I was determined that, when my baby came along, I would continue to enjoy eating good food at cafes. While it has sometimes been a challenging experience, I believe it’s been a good one for us and my daughter. Teaching her how she is expected to behave in society, as well as broadening her palate from the simple food I make her at home. Eating out with kids comes with challenges but can be an enjoyable experience with a little bit of planning.
If you’re thinking of dining out and want some reassurance that you can, indeed, eat at the same restaurants you did pre-baby, then this is it. I have a few tips that might help make the experience smoother.
1. Research your venue when eating out with kids
There are a lot of websites now that focus on kid-friendly restaurants that take all the work out for you. Does it have a high chair? A play space? Is it attached to a park or playground? What about a kids’ menu or change table? Can you take a stroller or is a baby carrier a better idea? Depending on the age of your child, a lack of these basic things can make or break your outing.
2. Time it well
If your child naps, you’ll need to either go during the naps, or, if your kid will sleep in a stroller, then during a nap might work for you. We managed to take our 2 year old toddler to a fanciest restaurant during the day for my husband’s birthday last year and she slept the entire meal next to our table, waking up just in time to help Daddy blow out the candle on his cake. The perfectly timed meal for all of us.
3. Reserve a table
If at all possible, reserve your table so there is a guarantee that you won’t have to wait. If this isn’t possible, turn up super early. There is literally nothing worse than waiting an hour for a table and then expecting a baby or toddler to sit quietly while you have a meal.
4. Bring entertainment
This might be colouring books, stickers, snacks, small toys, or even just your phone loaded up with games. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something your child hasn’t seen before, or hasn’t seen for a long time (amazingly they both work).
5. Order quickly
When you know you’ve only got a small window of opportunity to eat while the child is occupied, don’t waste time weighing up your options from the menu. Sit and order as soon as possible. Checking out the menu online before hand can help with making a quick decision when eating out with kids.
6. Ask for the bill early when eating out with kids
Not at the end of your meal, but when your meals arrive. This means if you need to make a fast exit, you can get your cash out and run out the door if needs be, without having to flag down a waiter and go through the slow bill-paying process.
7. Tip big
If your child has been fussy/messy/highly annoying, please clean up after yourself and then leave a big tip. The tip will guarantee that even if your child was having a terror of a day, that you will be remembered for the tip and not for the screaming child.
About the author: Christine Knight is the editor of Adventure, Baby!, a blog about navigating the world and parenthood. Follow her parenting and travel mishaps on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.