I forgot to mention in my post on eating chicken feet that Leone, my 21-month-old, loved them.
When my oldest daughter, who is 12 now and a decided gourmet despite being a rather picky vegetarian these days (“Mom, I’m not drinking that goat milk anymore unless I go to the farm and see for myself that the goats are being treated kindly”) was 19-months-old she gobbled down escargot fried in garlic and butter.
Which brings me to my tips about eating out with small children:
Do be adventurous: Order something exciting! Try chicken feet! Little kids are naturally more adventurous eaters than grown-ups (that’s why they sample their own bodily fluids with so much gusto). You may not love the tripe soup but the meal will be more interesting to talk about later than if you ordered chicken noodle.
Do talk to the chef: Shu-Huei asked the manager which vegetables were freshest and he recommended the Chinese broccoli, which was crispy and sweet and delicious. Some of the best meals I’ve ever had came from asking the chef to make whatever he felt like, either on or off the menu. (Ah, those were the days when I could afford to eat out more than once or twice a year. Former-childless-much-skinner-wrinkle-free self: did you appreciate how good you had it?)
Do ask others what they’re eating: Always a good conversation starter and a great way to figure out what to order and what to avoid.
Don’t take a hungry kid to a restaurant and expect to be served right way: This rule goes for hungry moms and dads too. Best to have a healthy snack before you leave so you’re not besieged by low blood sugar when you arrive.
Don’t go out to eat at bedtime: Go fashionably early when there are fewer customers. It’s not worth having an evening out with the kids if they’re going to be super fusses or miserable the next day from staying up too late.
Do look for BBKs: This is one of our tricks for getting our kids to behave nicely at restaurants. We case the joint for BBKs-Badly Behaved Kids. The kids have fun looking for other kids who are whining or crying. And they stay on the best behavior.
A couple other thoughts:
We usually give our kids the option of a drink or dessert. It works best to tell them beforehand they can only have one or the other (or neither, if money is tight.)
I like my kids to say thank you, and to understand that going out to eat is a privilege.
I also want them to act and feel grateful and appreciative.
Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. You can’t really force appreciation on a 7-year-old. So, while you can remind your kids beforehand to say please and thank you to the server, and while you can also tell them how much you like it when they thank you to you when you do something special, you can’t really expect them to stop being kids just because you went out to eat. Know what I mean?
That said, role modeling helps.
If we want our kids to be polite and grateful to us, it helps to be polite and grateful to them.
“I love the way the three of you waited quietly until dinner came. And thank you for taking the baby to the bathroom when she needed to go pee. I can’t wait to have another opportunity to take you out to eat, since you were all so well behaved. Thank you.”
Do you take your kids out to eat often? What have I forgotten? What are your tricks for a successful restaurant evening with the wee ones?
Updated April 2018