How to take your children to a restaurant and not go insane

by Veronica on July 26, 2011

in Autism, Blogging, Food-Issues, Sponsored Posts

We took our small quirky children to a real live restaurant yesterday and it didn’t end in tears. I was incredibly proud of both of them for holding it together and not losing the plot. They even ate a few things.

I have some tips for how to manage this yourself, if you like. My children are 2.5 and almost 5, so definitely at that BAN ALL CHILDREN FROM RESTAURANTS age.

Tips:

Make sure your children aren’t terribly hungry. I fed mine before we left home, knowing that it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t eat much at the restaurant. For them, it wasn’t about the food, it was about the participation and experience.

Pick a day where the restaurant won’t be terribly crowded. Monday lunch suited us and while it was busier than we expected, the children held it together well and nothing went wrong.

Research the menu first. Ordering is easier if everyone knows what they’re having ahead of time. I knew I was eating the mushrooms, we ordered chips and aioli for the kids and Nat wanted something with steak. This lessened the time spent peering over the menu and deciding.

Choose somewhere quieter. Especially if your children have sensory processing issues like mine did. We didn’t research the restaurant first, but managed to luck out with a relatively calm environment, with nothing terribly overwhelming happening.

Bring something to keep kids entertained. I had my iPhone with Angry Birds, but they didn’t need it. Both kids were having too much fun with their lemonade to want to play silly electronic games.

***

Normally, I don’t go out to eat much, because I wasn’t sure how the children would handle it and because I don’t like to impose on the grandparents to babysit too often.

However, I was asked to participate in the Mushroom Mania campaign, which is running across the country. This pushed me out of my comfort zone, and forced me to go out and eat. Unfortunately it seems that Tasmania doesn’t have any restaurants participating in the official campaign, which meant that I got to pick any restaurant I liked and review the mushrooms.

We chose The Squires Bounty in Salamanca as our first place to review and I am so glad we did.

I had the roasted stuffed mushrooms, with roasted tomato, salad and aged balsamic dressing. It was lovely, even if I didn’t expect the mushrooms to be crumbed. Tassie does great mushrooms, normally grown down in the Huon Valley and when I was working in the kitchen, we would get giant boxes of mushrooms delivered. They were always fantastic quality and I got to inspect them closely, as I spent rather a lot of time chopping them for various things.

Basically, I didn’t expect Tassie mushrooms to be anything less than spectacular and I wasn’t disappointed. These were button mushrooms, stuffed with a ricotta mix and then crumbed and deep fried.

The children ate the chips – well, nibbled at them, sort of and Nathan had a steak sandwich.

All in all, it was more laid back than I expected and a lot of fun.

Like anything that involves eating with children, we basically ate and then left, we didn’t linger over dessert, which was a bit of a shame as the dessert menu looked rather tempting.

July feels like it has been the month of plague here, with the flu, a stomach bug, a cold, a crashed car and a Very Grumpy toddler. Nathan now suspects he has glandular fever and we’re just waiting on the stars to align so that we can find time to get him to the doctor for blood tests. It took a lot longer to make it to a restaurant than I anticipated. I guess sometimes, life happens. Especially when you have small children.

***

This post was sponsored by Mushroom Mania and I was compensated for my participation.

Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo July 26, 2011 at 11:59 am

Man, your kids look like you V.

And I adore mushrooms. Add ricotta and deep frying and I am afraid I may short out my computer from the drooling.

Veronica July 26, 2011 at 12:46 pm

They do, don’t they? It’s spooky!

The mushrooms were really good.

Steve July 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Hi Veronica-I’m glad that your time at the restaurant was a pleasant one. I’ve written about this conundrum, to take children or not take them to a restaurant, before.
Its a very devisive topic and your tips are good ones, no doubt born of experience!
I’m very happy for children to be in restaurants, they are after all part of life. Where it gets tricky for me is that many parents seem to think its OK to let their kids run riot.
For instance, if I had a young family, had organized a rare night out, paid a babysitter etc to have to endure someone’s tired or cranky children, I’d be miffed. I think that children in restaurants make us confront the parenting skills/choices that other parents make and society today does not offer this kind of scrutiny without some value judgements attached-so its always going to be confronting. Interesting post.

Veronica July 26, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I sort of can’t fathom letting my kids run riot anywhere. Isaac got up and down from his seat a lot, but he didn’t run around and Amy is really good out in public now, provided she doesn’t get overstimulated, or too hungry (hence the feeding them first).

Jayne July 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Phwoar, those button mushies have me drooling, too…hmmmmmm.
Sound and sensible tips, glad it went so well for Amy and Isaac :)

Veronica July 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm

They were so good. The whole lot was good, actually.

I’m really proud of how they behaved.

Christie @ Poppy Seed Baby July 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I went to this pub when we visited Tassie in May – great review Veronica! So glad your little ones had a good time too :)

Veronica July 26, 2011 at 12:49 pm

It’s a nice little place, isn’t it!

Steve July 26, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Sorry, not suggesting your kids ‘ran riot’. In many cases though, people do expect the venue to accomodate them even though their kids are clearly overtired/hungry/overstimulated and this can be a burden on other diners who might have organized a night away from their own brood.

Veronica July 26, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Oh no, I know you weren’t! My comment was more about how far we’ve come since the days when I absolutely would NOT brave a restaurant, because other people didn’t need to listen to Amy scream, or run around. We did that at a park or at home instead.

Kathy July 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Ooooo, mushrooms. The Yum, they are. And I am jalous that you have Mushroom Mania in Tassie. Where’s OUR Mushroom Mania? Or, I suppose, it would have to be Mushroom Toria…? (Mushroom Victory, perhaps? ;-)

Re eating out with kids, we used to do it with two kids semi-frequently, but we rarely do it now we have three. Timing is almost impossible for us ATM, and, naturally, cost is more of an issue now we are a single-income family. We are much more likely to get food in if we’re having a cooking break, and once a month I take each of the big girls (separately, so it’s a treat) out for either lunch or afternoon tea. They, aged 8 and 6, are always easygoing and restaurant-appropriate in their behaviour. Toddler? Notsomuch.

That said, I must admit to feeling nothing but the profoundest sympathy for parents whose kids are running amuck anywhere (restaurants included). It sucks to be in that position and other people’s astonishingly harsh judgement just do not help.

What I’d say to people looking at THOSE kids and THOSE parents is – compassion is better than opprobrium. You know, we all make errors of judgement sometimes. Yeah, maybe the kids *are* overstimulated, overtired, etc, and maybe the parents *aren’t* (to your eyes) doing what they “should” be doing to calm them down, but the reality is, you don’t know the backstory. You never do. You don’t know if this is the first time those parents have tried the eating-out-with-kids thing and they’re rookies at it; you don’t know if this is a long-awaited and anticipated treat that won’t come again for months; you don’t know if the kids were behaving bewtifully at home and showed NO signs of the manic stuff you’re seeing now. (That happens, believe me). You don’t know how close to the end of their tether dad and mum really are, just by looking.

Just my 0.02c worth!

Veronica July 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Actually it’s happening in Victoria too – http://www.insanitytheory.net/kitchenwench/ is covering it.

I tend to be sympathetic to parents with children “misbehaving” out in public too, probably because I know I’m usually only a heartbeat away from being one of those parents too. And until we can magically spot autism and other invisible things with our magic eyes, we won’t know WHY they’re behaving that way. Really, we can’t judge.

river July 26, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I remember eating out in a hotel dining room years ago, with 4 kids. We were moving from Sydney to Melbourne and the Army put us up in a hotel for a week while we waited on our furniture arrival. While there we met up with a couple we’d known for years, they were on the move too, from Hobart to Cairns. We’d met them pre-children, so didn’t know their boys at all. Anyway, we adults were at one table, six kids at the next table. All night their boys were up and down running around, shoving empty chairs etc. My kids sat at the table and were very astonished that they were allowed to do this! The parents didn’t see anyhting wrong with this either, apparently it’s what they did at home too. They were 8 and 6. Mine were 8-6-4 and 5 months. baby was in a highchair next to my oldest and within arm’s reach of me.

Those mushrooms sound yummy and I’m as proud as you must be of Amy and Isaac.

Marylin July 27, 2011 at 3:19 am

WOW Amy is looking more and more like you, sweety!
Glad the eating out went well for everyone. :) x

Barbara July 27, 2011 at 4:41 am

Yay! Well done Amy & Isaac.

And please could you mail me some of those mushrooms. They sound glorious.

Achelois July 27, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Well I am very very hungry now, which is a rarity for me. Although its the middle of the night so my eating options are limited.

I loved Kathy’s comment. Which I think should be made into a poster and put up in restaurants.

So pleased you all had a great time. The children get more beautiful every day.

Alex Cole July 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Some great tips there, Veronica. Really enjoy reading your blog posts. Keep up the great work. Alex

Anne July 28, 2011 at 5:56 am

Aw, your kids are adorable! So glad they did so well eating out! Taking my 4 year old to a restaurant (which I don’t do often) is…challenging…!

Karen (miscmum) July 28, 2011 at 8:14 am

I’ve got some reviews of this nature coming up – part of me is excited, the other nervous as I haven’t done anything like this before – and nice photos (as usual ;))

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: