Taking kids to restaurants

Children spend more time in restaurants today than any previous generation of children ever did. Creative parenting expert Nikki Bush shares her 10 Commandments for taking children to restaurants so that everyone has a happy experience.

Bush says containing children in foreign spaces such as restaurants can be a challenge. She adds that because children are curious, they will want to explore a new environment. That means we have to take precautions as parents.

We have to be very aware of where we are taking our kids.

Nikki Bush, creative parenting expert

We need to be checking out the toilets, where the escape hatch is. If the child has a meltdown, what are you going to do? Have that in your mind even before you sit down.

Nikki Bush, creative parenting expert

We have to attentive and on purpose as parents says Bush. She goes on to say that if a parent is distracted and not emotionally present, children will feel insecure. Bush suggests the art of distraction if you don't feel comfortable with your children playing at a kiddies section in a restaurant.

10 Commandments for taking children to restaurants

  1. Feed your child a small snack before arriving at the restaurant (a hungry child is a fractious child)

  2. Keep juice/water on hand (a thirsty child is an irritable child)

  3. Order the children’s food with your drinks order (we know that young children don’t have much patience)

  4. If there is bread on the table, allow your child to butter a piece (it keeps them occupied and is good for developing fine motor control – pre-writing skills)

  5. Let your child play with a small piece of playdough on a side plate with a fork (it’s fascinating and a great distraction while you wait for food to arrive)

  6. Drawing or colouring-in is always fun. Find small activity books and crayons you easily take with you wherever you go. (Often children don’t like the broken crayons supplied by restaurants)

  7. Play a perceptual game with your child eg, a picture matching game like snap for younger children, or a card game like UNO for older children (by playing with them you engage their attention and keep them in their seats for longer)

  8. Don’t make a big fuss about things, rather divert your child’s attention to something else

  9. Be in control – be firm but proactive (if your child is having a meltdown you need to firmly pick them up and go and find a new space where they can calm down, such as walking out side to see the koi fish in the pond, or go for a slide in the jungle gym area)

  10. If there are two adults you may need to take turns eating and attending to your children, especially if they are small (doing timeshare is normal – this too shall pass!)

  11. Make sure there is a blanket and pillow in the car. You can usually find a corner somewhere to lay down a tired child (better your child takes a nap that runs amok in the restaurant trying to keep themselves awake).

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