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Surviving a Bite Out With the Kids
Here are a few tricks of The Restaurant Mom trade:
You either like it or you don’t: taking the kids out to eat. Either way, there’s little denying that our busy lives present the necessity of getting a bite to eat while out with our kiddos, and on more than one occasion. The trick is the techniques you employ to survive this event.
Plan ahead, as much as you can.
We’ve all been there – the point of meltdown. When kids are tired or hungry, the chances of a significant meltdown double and if they are both tired and hungry, the chances triple. To avoid the meltdowns, plan your restaurant arrival earlier than you normally would to anticipate a wait for a table or for the food. If you get there earlier than usual, you will probably avoid the wait for the table and shorten the wait for the food. Many moms tell me they also have a secret stash of cheerios in their purse at all times for their kids to snack on before the meal arrives. But if you forget the cheerios, don’t hesitate to ask the restaurant for the kid’s food to come out first or even for a package of crackers. Restaurants are more accommodating to this service then they’ve been in years past.
Bring an activity.
This is an area to which restaurants have been a little slower to adapt. Although many now offer kid’s activity sheets, they are generally not put together very well. The activities are either over the heads of your little ones or they are so easy and boring that they don’t do what they were intended to do; keep your kids distracted and busy while they wait for their food. We always have a bag of markers (because crayons melt in the Florida heat) and a coloring book in our car for those unplanned meals out. If you forget to bring something for the kiddies to do, no sweat. There are games you can play at the table that don’t require paper and writing tools. For example, you could have the kids measure the length of the table with the different things on the table like the fork, spoon, napkins and sugar packets. My kids love to play this game and before they know it, the food arrives.
Avoid the yuck.
There has been so much debate about the impact of foods on kids including sugar, gluten, wheat, and food dyes, just to name a few. Until restaurants are required to post nutritional information and re-do their kid’s menu offerings, we have to be a lot more cognizant on our own. My kids know that they are not allowed to have soda when we go out to eat. I’m not crazy about juices, either, so we order them watered down or they have milk. I have a cousin who lets her 4-year-old drink a certain yellowish-greenish, caffeine-loaded soda and then wonders why he’s bouncing off the walls. Be aware not only of what you are feeding your kids, but monitor how it affects their behavior afterwards.
To make dining out with our kids a more pleasant experience, and something we look forward to, we need to communicate to restaurant owners what our expectation is of their role in the dining out experience. Don’t you want to feel like you didn’t waste your hard earned money? I could meet with every restaurant owner and tell them what I hear every day from parents, but there’s something to be said about power in numbers and hearing a message over and over again.