Who enjoyed a meal out at a restaurant with their family this weekend? Growing up, Sunday's were the day we would get to eat out. For many families - especially those who work and have kids in school Monday through Friday - it just makes sense to go out on the weekend. If you still have young kids and have been too terrified to make the reservation, here are some tips for you to consider before you go:
1) Choose the restaurant carefully. Chances are, your favourite restaurant from when you were in college might not work out so well anymore. Play it safe and call ahead. Ask them if they have a children's menu, room to park or store a stroller and if they have change tables in the washrooms.
2) Pick the optimum time. That is FOR YOUR KIDS! You should know by now what time that is from feeding at home. Now, plan to arrive at the restaurant at least half an hour before that. No one likes dealing with a hungry kid, so go mid afternoon after their nap and when the restaurant is quieter and you'll be less likely to make a big disturbance.
3) Communicate and outline your expectations. Kids react better to new situations if they are not surprised. So, build it up like it's an exciting new adventure - that comes with rules and expectations. Regardless of age, communicate with your kids what type of behaviour, manners and respect is expected and what the consequences will be if those expectations aren't met.
4) Order quickly. One strategy to accomplish this if both parents are present is for one parent to take control of settling the kids, while the other parent discusses the menu with the kids and orders. Oh, and don't even think about appetizers if this is your first rodeo.
5) Pack appropriate distractions. A lot of families here in Canada prefer Montana's for the simple reason that they have paper table cloths that you can colour on! (besides the fact that kids eat for free on Tuesday's!). But pack a colouring book, pack a small table game, it's 2018... pack the iPad! You're going to be waiting for at least 10 minutes (sometimes a lot more) for your food to arrive - so be prepared.
In the end, learning to eat out takes time. Your kids might not get it the first time, and that's OK. Pack it up, finish at home and try again next time. Just like everything in parenting... perseverance will eventually yield wonderful rewards and enjoyable experiences. It just sucks being "that table" in a restaurant where you feel all eyes are on you. Trust us... we know!