6 tips for stress-free eating out with the kids at half-term

18th Feb 19 | Lifestyle

If you're taking the kids out for a meal as a half-term treat, here are ways to make it far less stressful for mum and dad.

Family Enjoying Meal At Outdoor Restaurant

Eating a meal at a restaurant should be fun for all the family, but often it can descend into tears, strops and food fights.

Research by Meerkat Meals has found 27% of parents admit their young child has thrown a tantrum or screamed loudly while dining out, and one in five say they’re too nervous about their kids’ unpredictable behaviour to go out for dinner more than once or twice a year. As a result, 10% of parents are apprehensive when approaching a restaurant and 12% said they feel stressed at the prospect.

So how can you make family meals out more enjoyable for everyone (including the other diners)?

1. Choose the right restaurant

There’s nothing worse than walking into a nice restaurant and realising you’re the only ones with kids, even though it’s the school holidays. As if that wasn’t bad enough, once you’re all seated (and you’re pinning your wriggling youngest down as he tries to make a bid for freedom), you look at the menu and realise there’s no kids’ menu, so you’ll have to cajole your brood into trying venison with a side-dish of sauteed artichokes or some other non-kid friendly haute cuisine.

Family-friendly restaurants will have staff that understand young kids aren’t always going to behave impeccably, so there’ll be no need to feel embarrassed.

2. Go somewhere familiar

If you can, book somewhere the kids have been before and enjoyed, that offers dishes you know they’ll be happy to eat. Also, try to create family traditions, like playing a particular game such as: ‘Who can guess what dad will order?’

3. Timing is key

Dine early, and make sure the kids aren’t (too) tired. And try not to be over hungry yourself, it’ll just lead to a short temper…

4. Set behaviour rules

And repeat them before you go into the restaurant. Have a back-up plan in case the kids don’t behave, such as taking them to sit outside for a few minutes, but don’t forget to praise them if they do nail their table manners. And remember, bribes can work – the promise of chocolate ice-cream if they’re well behaved can keep even the most wayward kids under control, at least for a little while.

5. Keep them entertained

Phones or tablets are practically guaranteed to keep the kids occupied during a meal out, although it can be nice to make them down devices and actually talk as a family sometimes. If you want to avoid relying on screens, be prepared with word games or cards, small toys or colouring books.

6. Keep it short

Young children aren’t best suited to sitting still for long periods, so aim to keep the meal short – an hour max for younger children if there’s nowhere for them to run around. It may help to look at the menu online first so you can all choose your food quickly, too.

© Press Association 2019

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