Food and Whine:
Dining Out With Your Children
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Remember before you had kids? Your entire family unit… the two of you… could dine out anywhere. Now it’s the five of you. Sometimes you get a sitter and go out as a couple, but it’s also nice to dine out as a family. It’s time to try something a step up from the usual pizza place. Taking the children to a restaurant can either be a fun adventure or a complete disaster. How do you make it work?
- Ask your friends where their families eat out. Check out the restaurant in advance. Drop by before committing yourself to a family evening there.
- Know your children. Some quiet, attentive kids can sit still and use good table manners in almost any restaurant. Some active, impulsive kids may not tolerate a restaurant with slow service or low noise levels. Some children cannot tolerate noisy places and prefer a calmer, quieter restaurant.
- Prepare the children in advance. Explain the expectations, and motivate them to rise to the challenge.
- Match the meal to your children’s tastes. Does your child like to be adventurous and try new flavors, or does he prefer to stick to familiar foods? Is desert a good motivator for polite behavior?
- Decide whether to take all of your children at once. If parents have two children, they can play one on one. With three or more, it’s more like zone defense.
- Children often do well at a buffet. They see the actual food, serve themselves quickly and make choices. Buffet food tends to be less exotic – a plus for children.
- Some family-run ethnic restaurants are more tolerant of children. Their own children may have been hanging around the kitchen for years. (Do not assume that all ethnic restaurants are this way.)
- If the restaurant does not own a high chair, they are telling you something.
- Try not to take them out to eat when they are tired.
- Tip well, especially if your children have been noisy or messy. If you get a good waiter, ask for his table again next time. Attentive staff can make a meal more enjoyable. If they remember you, your family may get superior service.
- Pay the check before you actually intend to leave. If your children begin to get frazzled, you can make a hasty retreat.