5 Simple Ways to Enjoy Eating Out with Children
Engaging in family mealtimes has countless benefits; according to research, “Your child may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight.” (1) But taking your children out to dinner can be a daunting experience, so here are our five tips for making meals out with kids an enjoyable experience:
1. Teach your children what is expected
Teaching your children how to behave at mealtimes starts at home. Sitting down together as a family teaches children table manners, the art of conversation and establishes your expectations; the skills learnt around the table will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Once these skills are clearly in place, eating out with your children will become much easier and more enjoyable.
2. Choose your restaurant wisely
First of all, take a look at the menu and make sure that it is suitable for your children. Next, consider the restaurant itself:
Is there space on the tables for your child to play while you are waiting for your meal?
If the weather is good, is there a garden your child can run around in?
Are there highchairs and changing facilities?
Is there somewhere to store the pushchair?
Are the tables too close together?
And are there tablecloths? (not a good idea if your child is a messy eater!)
3. Engage in conversation
Family Encouraging Conversation over Meal
In our busy lives, sitting down as a family is becoming a rarity, so make the most of a family meal together and talk to one another. Teach young children the art of table conversation; it is a social skill that children need to learn. A government report tracking 19,000 schoolchildren provided compelling evidence for just how important family mealtimes are: teenagers are more likely to get five good GCSEs when they share family meals. (2)
4. Keep them entertained
It is a good idea to take some activities with you to stave off boredom; it will stop your children trying to make toys of the cutlery and glasses on the table. You could take some colouring books, paper and pens (if you are on holiday, collect some shells or pebbles from the beach and take some permanent markers to decorate them with); some small cars; small world figures; Lego; anything that your child enjoys playing with (without making too much noise.)
Going out for dinner can be a lengthy experience that requires your child to sit down for a long period of time. Although we’d like them to partake in the conversations, they realistically will need another form of entertainment as well (and this will allow the adults around the table to have an adult conversation, albeit temporarily.)
5. Don’t overstay your welcome
Make sure you know your child’s limits and leave before they outstay their welcome – it is always best to leave the restaurant on a high. And don’t forget to check under the table for any stray toys (and to have a little tidy up) before you leave.
(1)Fiese, B. & Hammons, A. (2011). Is frequency of shared family meals related to the nutritional health of children and adolescents?
(2) Department for Children, Schools and Families (2008)