If eating out was one of your favorite splurges before you had children, you donít have to give it up now that you are a parent. Many families stick to fast food eateries and the mall food court, thinking their little ones canít handle nicer restaurants ñ or that the restaurants canít handle them. Although you probably donít want to take infants, toddlers and young children to four-star restaurants, you certainly can take them to casual restaurants, even those with cloth napkins. There are several steps you can take at home to prepare for such an excursion and things to do once you are out to make your dining experience fun for everyone, including people at the table across the room.
1. Train Your Children At Home
Once they are eating table food, start teaching them about appropriate mealtime behavior. Throwing food and utensils on the floor is not a fun game. We say ìpleaseî and ìthank youî instead of banging on the table and demanding something. We stay seated until we are done.
2. Pick An Appropriate Restaurant
Donít set your heart on the best fine dining restaurant in town. Start very casual, say sitting in the fast food burger joint instead of going through the drive-through, and work your way up through casual family chain restaurants, ethnic eateries and then fancier restaurants.
3. Pick The Right Time Of Day
A restaurant at midday is less likely to be filled with couples wanting a quiet, romantic meal. Plus, as long as itís not naptime, your child is less likely to be cranky.
4. Pick The Right Food
Check out the menu of a few restaurants before you go. Pick one that has a couple of things your child will eat. You might want to skip the childrenís menu and give your child the chance to try something besides chicken nuggets. Sharing part of your plate, splitting an order among two or three kids or ordering your child an appetizer or soup can also save money.
5. Take The Edge Off
Give your child a small snack at home so he is not starving and can wait for the waiter to bring the meal. If your child is the type to fill up quickly and then refuse to eat, skip the snack and order bread as soon as you arrive.
6. Free Is Good
Look for restaurants offering deals that allow the kids to eat free when an adult or two buy their meals.
7. Expect Fun, Not Romance
You might hope your baby will sleep or your toddler will quietly keep himself amused so you and your partner can enjoy a romantic night out. Thatís not going to happen. If you take your child, expect a fun family outing, not a coupleís date.
8. Keep Your Child Cccupied
Bring a small bag of things to keep your child busy while waiting for the food to arrive. Keep the items small, quiet and clean. Bring a small coloring book and crayons; a picture book; or a doll or stuffed animal. If your child is an infant or toddler, take him for a walk while you are waiting for the food or when you are done but your partner is still eating.
9. Establish The Rules
Remind your child that the same rules that apply for eating at the dinner table at home apply when you are out. Stay in your seat. Be polite. Donít throw things. Tell him if you all follow these rules, you can stay in the restaurant and have fun. Be prepared to walk out, even without eating, if the rules arenít followed. Do this once and your child will understand you mean it.
10. Relax and enjoy
As long as your child is not creating a scene, is content in his seat, is taking at least a couple of bites and is relatively calm, consider it a success. He may not finish his plate and you may need to hurry up if the meal takes longer to get to you than expected and your child is behaving but getting a little antsy. But thatís a good start to many more meals you will have together as your child grows up.
James has been writing on the Cartridge Save blog for years but also does stuff behind the scenes at work, so when heís not on the internet heís looking at printer toner such as
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