By Toronto Nutritionist, Theresa Albert
Ok, it’s the big day! The day you have been waiting for since baby was born...a night out. Ooops, grandma has the flu and can’t babysit, what will you do? You will pack up your survival kit, perhaps reconsider your choice of restaurant (but maybe not) and forge ahead. Kids and dining out are not mutually exclusive. In France, for instance, the whole family goes out and the kids learn from an early age, what is appropriate in this new space. You may indeed get a few sideways glances but if you handle it well, people will stop by on the way out and remark on what a wonderfully mannered child you have (aka, thanks for not ruining my dinner by dragging your bairn along!)
Consider age appropriateness
Believe it or not, it is much easier to manage an infant still in the carrier than it is an older child. Ask for a corner table away from other diners that is quiet and has something above the table to look at. A fan, an intricate ceiling pattern or some artwork is great, a light bulb, not so much. Think intimate, quiet, French Bistro.
The toddlers and twos are the toughest nuts. They do need amusement. Consider which restaurant would work best for your style of child. Some pub/roadhouse spots are so busy and noisy that they won’t even notice your child jumping on the banquette. Have your restaurant amusement kit on hand containing coloring book, crayons, video game player, ipad...whatever will keep your darling amused long enough for you to taste your food. Unless your child is extremely quiet, this is not the age to instil table manners, it will only frustrate you both!
3-5 year olds are ripe for the process, it is the perfect time to explore and explain. This is the age that you want to begin experimenting with other cultures. It will help expand the palate and allow kids to see that some families do it differently. Think Dim Sum, Indian buffet or somewhere else where they are likely to serve family style where platters are delivered and small nibbles are allowed. At this age, you want to play eye spy and keep the child seated as long as possible. “I spy something that we are supposed to eat with but that looks like sticks!” Bring some food of your own that you know your child will eat and only hope for a little bit of “new” to pass the lips.
What if it doesn’t work?
Be ready (mentally and physically) to make a quick getaway. Kids are moody and you never know when they are going to turn on you. Ask for takeout containers early on and the bill right away. This way, you won’t be flagging down a server with one hand and holding down a screamer with another. You will be ready to book it if the whole thing goes awry.
About the Author:
Theresa Albert is a nutritionist and food communications consultant. Her Food Network show,Just One Bite! aired for 5 years on both Food Network and BBC Kids. She is currently a trusted on-camera correspondent for CTV Newschannel as well as CBC and regular health expert on the daily lifestyle show, Steven and Chris which airs internationally.
Named one of Canada’s Top 25 Tweeters by Today’s Parent Magazine and one of Savvymom.ca’s 35 Favorite Bloggers, she is called for comment from every major magazine, newspaper and television outlet in Canada. She has a weekly column in the Metro Newspaper and regularly writes features for Today’s Parent, Canadian Family Magazine and blogs at Huffington Post.