A new guide has been published aimed at parents wanting to take their young children out to restaurants. Harden’s Eating Out With Babies And Toddlers, by Peter Harden, aims to help families take the stress out of dining out with they’re young kids, and gives guidance on the most child friendly places etc.
The guide was discussed in an article on the BBC website and it implied that eating out with young kids can be a more stressful than enjoyable experience, whether it’s trying not to annoy fellow diners who might be childless, or trying to keep your children quiet. I can see what the article was getting at, and there are definitely places I wouldn’t take my kids, but I can’t say that I’ve ever felt uncomfortable or stressed out in any “eatery” I’ve taken my children to, and we don’t just stick with the “safe” child friendly options either.We enjoy going out for meals and the only thing I’ve worried about is if there will be appropriate food on the menu.
Generally if a pub or restaurant has a complicated menu (ie snail porridge…) and no high chairs, we don’t go. Mainly because it will be too difficult trying to find something on the menu for the kids to eat. The thought that we might disturb childless groups rarely enters our head. Not because we’re selfish, just because we’ve taught our kids to sit at tables and not disturb others. Of course they want to get up and walk around, but generally this is supervised by one of us and if there is an inkling of loud, boisterous behaviour we take them outside. And I always take some [quiet] entertainment for them. I hate to sound clichéd but my mother was bought up partly in France and we as a family have quite a “European” attitude to children, so causing chaos in an adult environment just isn’t accepted. I don’t want my kids to disturb or annoy other people, whether their childless or not. I get a sense of pride when people tell me they’re well behaved etc. And I like to think I can take them anywhere. Of course they have “off” days when they just don’t want to listen or behave, and on those days I’ll definitely go for the “safe” options.
As well as the high chair and menu “test”, it’s also good to judge the reaction of the staff when you enter an eatery with your children, if they look disdainful and start looking for a table in a dark corner to hide you in, then you’re probably not going to have a very enjoyable meal. And I do get a little annoyed that all children get tarred with the same brush. Not all children are rowdy and shout and scream, and are allowed to do this.
I do see a point to a guide to eating out with kids – especially as I think there are some parents who are too scared to take their kids out in case they misbehave, and it’s so important to have some kind of social life, with and without the children. And it’s great for kids to sample different environments and cuisines. But I do think an awful lot of it, as with most parenting, comes down to common sense. Ask restaurants when you book if kids are welcome, and give them a chance to put you away from couples dining out. Look for the “child friendly” signs. But also teach your children about the way to behave in certain places. It really isn’t hard, and it doesn’t mean you’re “stifling” creativity and development. Kids need guidance just like parents do. In fact, maybe someone should do an illustrated story book about how to eat out, as a toddler, with your parents!? Well behaved children are welcome anywhere.
Click here to read the article and see the top 11 “safe” places to eat with your kids.