For many nannies, taking their charges out to eat is a welcomed change to the daily routine. But eating out with young children isn’t always fun and stress free. The good news is, with a little planning and preparation, dining out with your charges can be a great experience that provides opportunities to teach and reinforce acceptable mealtime and restaurant behavior.
Before heading out to eat with your charges, consider these 10 tips.
1. Do your research. Before heading out to eat, consider the restaurants in your area. Visit their websites or call ahead to confirm hours and the availability of a children’s menu. Have an idea of what you’re going to order for yourself and the kids prior to leaving the house.
2. Choose a kid-friendly restaurant. There’s nothing more stressful than being in a place where you know kids aren’t welcome. Restaurants with booths and bright lighting and those that advertise themselves as family-friendly typically are prepared to warmly welcome children. Kid-friendly restaurants will have things for the children to do while they wait for their food and will have a separate children’s menu. Once you’ve mastered eating out at casual restaurants, work your way up to fine dining establishments
3. Plan to go before hunger strikes. If you know the kids are typically ready for dinner at 5 o’clock, be seated by 4:30 so that their food arrives by 5. If you wait until the kids vocalize that they are hungry before heading out they likely won’t have the patience to wait for their food.
4. Pack snacks. For babies and young toddlers, packing puff like snacks, dry cereal, or oyster crackers can keep them occupied and provide them with something to munch on should they get hungry before their food comes.
5. Pack small items to keep the kids occupied. Depending on the child’s age rattles, crayons and paper, magnetic drawing boards, travel games, or brain teaser puzzle books can offer a distraction while waiting for dinner to arrive.
6. Plan for an hour. At kid-friendly restaurants, you should be able to be seated, order, and eat within an hour. Anything longer than that and the children will become antsy and be ready to move on.
7. Leave before the crowd. Timing your restaurant visit to end before the crowd comes in can ensure you get quick service. Getting the attention of your waitress when she has just your table is much easier than trying to flag her down when her section is full.
8. Have active time first. If you know that you’ll be heading out to eat, give young children an opportunity to run and play prior to visiting the restaurant. If they have a chance to burn some energy before heading out to eat they may be more likely to stay seated while dining out.
9. Bring a backup. Most family-friendly restaurant staff realizes that kids can be finicky eaters. Packing a backup of diced string cheese and berries can ensure your charge eats something should he refuse to eat what’s prepared at the restaurant.
10. Use natural learning moments. When dining out there are lots of opportunity to teach and reinforce good manners and social skills. Be a solid role model and teach your charges how to enjoy a restaurant meal and behave when dining with others. Look for opportunities to praise good behavior. Saying things like “Wow, I really like how you asked me to give you a napkin rather than reaching across the table for one” will reaffirm the importance of conducting yourself appropriately and making good choices when dining out.
Depending on your nanny position, you may or may not eat out regularly with the children. Since many parents are concerned about their children’s dietary needs and habits, you’ll want to be sure to ask permission before taking your charges out to eat.
I love taking my charges out for lunch during the day! We try to go once a week – it’s a good excuse to get out of the house and they feel like little adults getting to eat out at restaurants!
whenever i’m watching my charges for the night while their parents go out we go out to eat too. i try to find restaurants that are not only kid-friendly, but also that do a kids eat free night – those are the restaurants that usually have coloring books or other kid activities that keep them happy and occupied.
These are great tips! My employers have been on the fence about letting me take the kids out to eat, but I think I can use this list to put together a list of restaurants that will be appropriate for my charges. After all, sometimes you just need to get out of the house and do something different!
My employers were a little wary of letting me take the kids out to eat at first too, but it really can be a great experience for the kids. Now we go on weekly lunch dates together. I try to find places that have play areas for the kids, that way they can burn off some energy while we’re waiting for our food.
That’s a great idea! Now that you mention it, I think there are quite a few restaurants around my area of town that have play places for the kids!