Saturday, June 25, 2005

Going to a Restaurant With Young Children

Having young children all but guarantees that you will face different challenges every day. Some of these challenges will be major, such as dealing with illnesses; others will be minor, such as dealing with bickering over toys. A lot of challenges with children come when we take them out in public. When we are at home, we can relax the rules a little bit. Our kids can run around, scream, jump on the furniture, and do a whole bunch of other things that we would never dream of letting them do outside the home. Being out in public means children need to be on their best behavior, or pretty close to it. This is especially true when we take our young children out to eat at restaurants.

Clearly, if we go to a fast food chain such as McDonald's or Burger King, we don't have to be as strict regarding the children's behavior. But when we go to sit-down restaurants, even when they are billed as "family restaurants," we owe it to the other patrons to try to keep our children relatively calm and quiet. There are several ways we can go about doing this.

If your child is still a baby, then you probably won't have anything to worry about. You can count on her sleeping for a good portion of the time, and you can have a bottle ready for when she wakes up. Babies are usually pretty content to just sit in their removable car seats while mom and dad dine. If your baby does start crying, please don't just ignore her. That can be very annoying for other diners. Instead, pick her up and do all the same things you would do at home to soothe her. If your baby doesn't seem to want to stop, one parent ought to walk her around outside the restaurant. The other parent can continue eating, and then get the remainder of the food boxed up to go. It might sound like a drastic thing to do, but the other patrons will be grateful to you.

Dealing with toddlers in restaurants can be a little trickier. If you have a picky eater in your brood, you might want to try feeding her a favorite meal before you go to the restaurant. Then when you are out to eat, you can just order a side dish or dessert for your child that you know she will eat. This is much easier than engaging in public battles over eating all her vegetables or cleaning her plate.

Toddlers will also require some light entertainment. Many family restaurants have crayons and coloring sheets for the young ones, but I wouldn't absolutely count on it. Bring your own crayons and coloring books from home, or bring some other favorite toys or books. It would be best to bring quiet toys rather than ones that blare music, electronic noises, or computerized voices that could disturb other diners. You should do everything you can to help your child remain entertained throughout the hour-long meal.

Just because you have children, it doesn't mean you can't go to restaurants anymore. By following these tips, you can help make your next restaurant visit a good one!

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