Choosing a child-friendly restaurant
When choosing a child-friendly restaurant, we initially go by the amount of cutlery on the tables and the quality of the glassware - if a restaurant looks too ‘grown-up’ then it is probably best avoided. Spending the whole meal telling the children to “mind the glasses” is no fun for you, and not fair on them.
The menu has got to please everyone and this is still hugely important for our youngest child who has always been a fussy eater. At home, I’m continually trying to get her to eat at least some of her ‘5 a-day’ fruit and vegetables, whilst remaining calm and seemingly unconcerned, but I don’t think a restaurant is the right place for this kind of battle. After all, it’s meant to be fun for all the family.
We always check that she likes at least a few of the items on the menu before we go in. Many restaurants include children’s menus and although they have their place and are at times invaluable, they are sometimes limited to the same old pizza and pasta dishes where you’re really looking for a range of healthy options. Some restaurants will be happy to do a smaller version of a dish from the main menu, others absolutely won’t, but it’s always worth asking.
If you are not in a position to look at the restaurant yourself try some of the websites and books below, which give details of family-friendly eateries. Bear in mind though, that things change very quickly in the restaurant business, so don’t be afraid to call and ask questions or double-check things before you make plans. If you find somewhere great, send us the details so we can spread the word!
What to take with you
One of the biggest issues is a child’s boredom threshold, so choosing and ordering quickly is vital. As is paying the bill. With smaller appetites, kids soon fill up and lose interest. I always come laden down with colouring books and pens in case the meal is slow to arrive.
Highchairs were often a problem for us when the children were younger - we found we were choosing restaurants for the highchairs rather than the food. Now there are some fantastic booster seats available, which are portable and can be attached to just about any chair you can imagine. Really useful, too, if you’re taking your child on holiday and might be eating out a lot. If you’re considering buying a portable seat, check out the ones we recommend, below.
But, even if you’ve tried everything to create an enjoyable experience, things still sometimes go horribly wrong and you wonder why you bothered! Don’t despair, just realise you are not alone and try again soon. Sometimes it just comes down to luck – if your child is in the right mood at the time of the meal. But when it works, it really is worth it and as your children grow, eating out gradually becomes second nature. Not only is it valuable family time, it also means you get to do what you enjoy doing.
Child booster seats and portable highchairs
For younger children and babies, who still require a safety harness, there are some great portable highchairs on the market. We used the Mothercare adjustable- fit table seat, which was great, but we did have the odd occasion when it wouldn’t fit on the tabletop.
One model I particularly like is Handysitt which, although expensive, can be used at home as well as when eating out, especially if you want your child to sit up at the table rather than use a tray.
For an older child who simply needs added height a booster seat is ideal. Mothercare, Kiddicare and The Great Little Trading Company have a good range with varying price and size.
With so much choice, though, it does really come down to personal requirement and it’s definitely worth shopping around for price.