Dining Out with Your Preschooler

Having a young preschooler on your hands doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to forever dine at home due to fear of restaurant disasters. Before you let the prospect of eating at a restaurant daunt you, take a look at the below suggestions on how to get your preschooler to cooperate when dining out, and how to turn potential public dining disasters into a fun and peaceful family event.  

Choose a child-friendly restaurant.

Casual family restaurants are much more suitable destinations than quiet restaurants that don’t often cater to young children. The noisier the restaurant, the less you’ll need to worry about your preschooler being a bit loud. Make reservations before you head out to avoid having to wait for a table.

Enforce table manners at home.

If your child has already undergone age-appropriate training in table manners, chances are you won’t have as much trouble eating out if you consistently enforce the rules. Young children are creatures of habit so invest your time and energy in setting down suitable guidelines and enjoy the fruits of your efforts.

Head out to the restaurant early.

The earlier you head out and settle down during lunch hour or dinner time, the faster you will be served by the restaurant staff, as the restaurant won’t be crowded yet. This means you won’t have to wait as long for your meal, hence your child won’t become restless and impatient. It’s a good tactic to keep a light snack in your bag, like crackers, to head off your child’s hunger while you wait for the meal to arrive.

Bring along toys.

Before you leave for the restaurant, pack a few reliable goodies for your child’s amusement, such as a favorite book or quiet toys and games. If you think you’re going to stay at the restaurant for around an hour, pack enough entertainment to fill two hours. If your preschooler is the energetic sort, bring along new toys that will keep your child occupied until the food arrives.

Keep things moving.

Children are impatient by nature, and the longer they have to sit through courses while the adults chitchat at their leisure, the less patient they will become, leading to potential public meltdowns. Just skip the appetizers and go straight to the main course.

Reserve a few special foods or drinks for restaurants.

Allowing your child to indulge in foods or drinks that are normally not allowed at home, such as caffeinated soda or certain types of dessert, can make restaurant visits special and something to look forward to. The treat will reinforce the idea that going out is a special privilege, and children will be more willing to behave if they understand that.

Choose your battles wisely.

While you should try to enforce good behavior, let minor transgressions go. The last thing you should do is enter a full-blown confrontation with your child at a restaurant.

Get your spouse involved.

As in all child-rearing aspects, your spouse should be your number 1 partner. Take turns in looking after and entertaining your child while the other eats and takes a break. This tactic will help things go more smoothly, and will make the overall affair a more pleasant and relaxing one.

Don’t give up.

Practice makes perfect, so give your child regular opportunities to practice their manners in public and learn proper restaurant behavior. With firm but gentle guidance, trips to restaurants will soon become enjoyable for both the parents and child.