Preparing your children for dining out

Dining out with young children can sometimes be difficult.

Dining out with young children can sometimes be difficult.

If children are tired, cranky, or if they are thirsty, hungry or if the service is too slow, parents can find themselves feeling stressed out and even embarrassed by their children’s behaviour.

Before you leave, select a restaurant that has types of food your children enjoy eating.

Does your child like to be adventurous and try new flavours, or does he prefer to stick to familiar foods? Also look for a restaurant that is child-friendly with kids’ menus and if possible, children’s activities.

Ask your friends where their families eat out. Talk with children about the behaviour you expect. Prepare them in advance by explaining the expectations and motivate them to rise to the challenge. Have crayons, pencils, or markers with you.

You might want to bring along a few of your children’s favorite books to help them pass the time while waiting for their food.

Once you are inside the restaurant break out the coloring books, crayons, books, etc. Pass out the menus and go right to ordering. Play guessing games such as I Spy or Hangman while waiting for food. Toddlers can even play I Spy if you keep it simple.

When the food arrives, offer praise for good behaviour. Make statements such as “Wow, you are using great table manners.”Keep an eye on how the kids are doing. Do they need their meat cut? Are they missing anything? Would he do better with a spoon rather than a fork?

After the meal is over it’s probably best not to hang around too long. It might be nice to enjoy a cup of coffee after a meal but it might be difficult for your children to stay too much longer. Be sure to compliment your children on their good behaviou r. Let them know that because things went so well this time, you will be happy to take them to a restaurant in the future.

Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Monique Nicholls, an outreach worker with the Building Incredible Babies program with Family Services of Central Alberta. Nicholls can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or