Does dining out with your new baby, busy toddler or withdrawn teen fill you with dread? Cayman Parent is here to help you minimise the stress and put the fun, engagement and family togetherness back into dining out with your children! Check out these handy tips for all ages – BON APPÉTIT!
Be sure that you have packed the essentials in your baby bag.
Once you are familiar with the temperament of your baby and his/her feeding and eating schedule, put your windows of baby-contentment to good use when you are making your dining plans.
Be sure your baby is well fed before leaving the house, this should help keep baby content while you dine. If possible, plan your meals out during a time when you know your baby will be sleeping. This will provide you with a brief reprieve from parenting duties so you can relax a bit and enjoy your meal.
Make your first few dining out experiences a ‘four-handed’ affair. You will find it reassuring to know that there is a second set of hands/arms available to assist you if need be. Plan to meet up with a friend or family member who can lend a hand so to speak, until you have mastered the fine art of dining out with your baby.
Do not plan to brunch all day with a very young baby, especially at a loud and busy eatery. Long exposure to stimuli can often be too much for them and may result in excessive fussiness. Young babies need quiet time and rest, so plan on dining out for an hour or two at the most.
Spontaneity is wonderful when you are flying solo, but if you are dining out with a toddler, it is always a good idea to select your final destination prior to getting into the car.
Be sure that the restaurant is child friendly and has a kid’s menu. If you have a picky eater or a child with food allergies, be sure to bring along a few of your child’s favourites, in case the menu doesn’t meet your child’s needs/likes. Caymangoodtaste.com is a great place to check out restaurant menus before venturing out!
It’s often best to avoid small/intimate restaurant settings when dining with toddlers and young children.
You can easily manoeuvre a stroller or carrier without disturbing other diners makes for a more enjoyable experience.
It will provide you with additional noise as a cushion for tell-tale toddler talk as well as extra space to stroll about with your toddler if a distraction is required.
Most restaurants are not equipped with toddler sized plates/ utensils so bring your own.
Having familiar cups and the like can lessen upsets as well as avoid unnecessary spills from using oversized or unfamiliar utensils.
Ask the server to remove all unnecessary items from the table the moment you are seated. That fancy candle on the table is not a toy.
You know your child best. If you have a toddler who is prone to tantrums or public meltdowns when they are hungry or tired, take steps to prevent one from occurring.
If calming your child is not possible, be prepared to head home early. Ask your server to pack your food to go and plan to dine out another day.
Model proper meal time etiquette for your child by sitting and sharing meals together.
Teach them that getting up and running around during the meal is not acceptable and that you sit at the table until everyone is finished eating.
BUT… Pick your battles, if your four-year-old is adamant about not eating greens at home, chances are greens will not suddenly turn into a favourite at a restaurant.
Cayman Parent highly recommends making all meal times, whether at home or while dining out, an electronic device free zone. That’s right, no smart phones or iPads, and that goes for parents too! Be a role model for your children and make dining a special time to nurture family togetherness.
Between the ages of twelve and thirteen, hormones kick in and many children retreat into their own worlds. Friends, the latest happenings at school or on Snapchat can become the sole focus of their existence— it is not difficult to become disconnected from them during this tricky period. Dining out with your teen presents a perfect opportunity to reconnect. Why not come up with a few questions to ask as a basis for conversation before heading out to eat? Consider engaging your teen by brushing up on topics of interest to them. Meal times present an opportunity for conversation— this way you will be fully prepared!
It’s easy to get into a rut when dining out. Although you and your children may have a favourite restaurant, do not be afraid to be adventurous. After all, Grand Cayman is the culinary capital of the Caribbean with an extraordinary number of restaurants within a twenty mile radius. Dine at a new restaurant for a change and challenge yourself and your children to sample a new dish. You can even share one! This is another great way to engage with your children and build new experiences as a family.
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