Here are some tips and hints that have worked very well for us as parents and as the owners of a restaurant. No.9 Barronstrand St. is a busy city centre restaurant which caters to the business community and families. We happily welcome children and have put a lot of work into making our restaurant child friendly, even putting in a discreet play area with a play kitchen.
Play Restaurant at home: Play restaurant at home with your kids, once they know the rules of the game, it will be easier for you to remind them. Always reward good behaviour with praise, “good job, well done” etc. Try to ignore the mistakes and don’t correct them too much when they get it wrong, remember it’s supposed to be fun, in the game and in real life.
Keep them engaged: Kids don’t like to sit around idle for long so you need to keep them amused. You can carry small toys (Lego, cars, small dolls, small action figures, farm animals, crayons etc.) which you can give them to play around on the table, until your order arrives. Speak to the child, don’t make them feel neglected, answer their queries and involve them while placing the order. Make the entire experience memorable and pleasant for the child and yourself.
Save the cartoons for later: If your children like to watch cartoons or games on your phone, then tell them before you go into the restaurant what the ground rules are. Ideally you should (if possible) hold off until after they have eaten, as it will keep them in their seats while you finish your meal. If you give it earlier they might get bored sooner and you have nothing to fall back on. Avoid threatening not to give it as you probably won’t be able to follow through on this without causing a meltdown.
Choose the best time: The worst time to go to a restaurant is when either you or your child is very hungry! The key to a good restaurant experience with kids is going at the right time. Generally, kids have their lunch or dinner much earlier than adults. Hence, choose a time which coincides with your kids’ hunger and there is less rush at the restaurant. Order food for your kids first, and ask for it to be brought to the table as soon as it’s ready or at the latest with your starters.
Ask for straws: Ideally you want your child’s drink served in a low glass, which is less likely to be knocked over. Regardless, you should always ask for a straw as it will make it easier for your child to avoid spills.
You don’t need to feel embarrassed: When things go wrong and you end up with a meltdown or a tantrum, don’t worry about what other people think, the most important thing to do is console your child. Try to reassure and calm them, “I know you want to …. But in the restaurant we all have to ….” Don’t feel you have to struggle on with a dinner that is quickly falling apart, it’s ok to admit defeat and head for home.