Dining Out With Kids: A Survival Guide [Guest Post]
As a blogger, baker’s wife and mum of four, Anna Spurling has navigated her way through piles of destroyed napkins, spilt drinks, tantrums and nappy changes while dining out at restaurants. Now, Anna has used her experience to compile five hacks to make your next family dining experience as pleasant as possible!
Dining with kids can be fraught with endless negotiations, trips to the toilet and more colouring pencils than a Smiggle store.
When you are stuck in a cycle of sleep deprivation, nappy changes and monosyllabic conversations then heading out to dinner at the end of a long day can be just what a harried mumma needs. And let’s be honest, dad needs it too.
But gone are the days where a spur-of-the-moment decision to hop down to your local bistro was a frequent one on the weekly calendar. Nowadays, with mini destroyers in tow, eating out requires the same forward planning it takes to coordinate a family holiday.
I’ve spent the best part of a decade dragging babies, toddlers, kids and now tweens to cafes, fine dining establishments, roadside dumplings in Shanghai, pubs, brunches, lunches, family dinners and a good old picnic in the park. I have to say the last one is usually the worst because a. public toilets and b. nature equals bugs and birds. Neither makes a good dining companion.
But don’t fret, it gets easier and soon you’ll be making reservations like a seasoned TripAdvisor pro. That, or I’ll make sure you can fake it until you make it with these key commandments…
Five commandments that will make your next dining experience heavenly
1. Get thine timing sorted
Heading out into the public domain where rules and manners apply to your darling offspring means that you have to think about when is the best time of day to eat out.
If your bub is horrendous during the 5pm witching hour then the local sushi joint ain’t going to want to see your brood when the sun goes down. But if that little darling is a beacon of smiles and giggles in the morning then book in brunch and a steady supply of bubachinos.
2. Pick thine battles
This is not the time to be negotiating with fearless toddlers about how many servings of broccoli they may have eaten. If your kid is happy scoffing a pizza of cheese and you are getting to speak actual sentences with your other half then I would call that winning. They can have broccoli tomorrow night.
3. Know thine menu
50% of my children eat rice. This discounts many dining options unless I know there are also noodles on the menu and I can pass them off as Chinese spaghetti.
Once you find a cuisine or a restaurant
will tolerate you like then sign up to the loyalty program stat.
Pubs are a firm favourite amongst our lot and it has absolutely nothing to do
with the fact that they also serve wine.
4. Watch thine sugar
Throwing an apple juice at your kids because it is a treat is the same as feeding them a can of Coke and expecting them to sit still. It ain’t gonna happen.
So if you do juice plus tomato sauce with their fries (or if your kid is awesome, broccoli) and then follow it up with an ice cream, you’ll either be seeing all three food stuffs at 1am or your kids will have that crazy sugar high and then the impending low slash meltdown slash public tantrum.
5. Manage thine expectations
Eating out with four kids is as easy as keeping an octopus in a string bag, so listen carefully. Walk in and smile very nicely at the wait staff. Kindly ask them to bring you two large glasses of wine and enough garlic bread to feed the carb monsters whilst you double check the menu for Chinese spaghetti.
Set the clock for 45 minutes because that is the time limit of dining out with a small tribe. If they haven’t lost interest by then, you will have.
Anna Spurling is a baker’s wife, mum of four and full time kid wrangler who dabbles in writing when the caffeine kicks in. She can be found at Colour Me Anna where she blogs about living with anxiety in a realistic, insightful and mildly amusing examination of the busyness inside her head. Whilst the baby days are behind her, she is moving into the unchartered waters of parenting tweens + toddlers, and understands the phrase, ‘Small kids, small problems. Big kids, big problems’.