Eating Out with Kids Guide and Tips – Can’t wait for Scotland’s restaurants to reopen. Travelling can involve eating in very nice places with very young children, which can be stressful. We don’t have much childcare so when we eat out, often the kids do too.
I’m not writing this cos we have amazing kids, but because we have totally ordinary kids, who can be naughty and tired and over-excited and cute. Over the years we’ve eaten at a host of fine hotels and country houses, and yes we’ve spilled things and acted out, but I’ve learned a few lessons on the way. Whilst I’d always prefer to dine with my husband childfree, family dining has its own quirky rewards.
Planning – Eating Out with Kids Guide and Tips
-Talk the kids through what’s going happen, how ‘special’ it is, and what big boys and girls they’ll be eating out at a fancy restaurant. Explain if the restaurant is a primarily adult venue. Kids understand far more than we often give them credit for.
-Smarten the kids up if they’re willing. Even if it’s just replacing a top with a shirt/blouse, they get a sense of occasion without too much faff. Tell them how great they look. [Also take a picture as they’ll look super cute.] My youngest chooses his own shirt to pack/wear and looks forward to wearing it as he associates it with choosing food he likes and eating a massive pudding!👌🏻
-Always bring quiet activities that keep children still, such as story books, ‘Where’s Wally’ books and colouring in. Avoid toys such as small cars that they’ll no doubt want to play with on the floor. [I don’t care if you want to let your kids watch tablets etc. but I don’t let my lads have them at dinner. If I let them have them once they’d want them every single time and I’d never hear the end of it.]
-Book the earliest sitting. I don’t want the kids over tired, and I’d rather be finishing up when the more romantic adult diners arrive.
-Ensure the kids are actually hungry. Don’t overdo the snacks during the afternoon. [Comedy pics below from the Mustardseed in Inverness and Amarone in Aberdeen- it looks like I starve the poor chap 🙂 ]
-For really little ones, bring their own filled juice, milk or water cups. It saves a fortune and most venues don’t mind at all. Many even top up a kid’s cup of milk for free. Awww.
-Look for a decent kids’ menu – many of the finest restaurants cater to young diners. My kids now get excited at the mere sight of a menu, cos it’s much better than mummy and daddy’s cooking at home, and often includes favourites such as Macaroni Cheese. The video above is of the kids building their own pizzas at The Chester hotel in Aberdeen, which also dished up ‘My First Steak’. Fun and tasty.
On Location – Eating Out with Kids Guide and Tips
-When we arrive I ask the waiter really nicely to clear the table of extra glasses and surplus cutlery. It just saves the time, money and embarrassment of breakages, crashes and smashes, and cutlery being banged together like silver drumsticks.
-The tots receive their main courses at the same time as us. It somehow works better for us than messing with the order of courses – we can’t enjoy our main if the kids have already eaten. We simply try to entertain the kids till their food arrives
-My best trick. I noticed my kids behave better for teachers and other grownups than for their parents (surprise, surprise), so we always pretend that the waiting staff decide if the boys have been well behaved enough to get dessert. [The waiters don’t know this, we don’t impose on them. We just convince the kids that their behaviour will be assessed. Cunning…]
-Don’t be put off, daunted or intimidated by a ‘fancy’ venue. The staff are there to help you, and they’ll usually do their utmost to help you enjoy your meal. A good restaurant welcomes all their guests, whatever their age or size.
-Kids are kids. As long as my pair are relatively quiet and sitting down, they can pull all the funny faces, get chocolate moustaches and ruin as many photo opportunities as they wish.
-The more often you eat out together the easier it will be. I fully appreciate that dining in a restaurant is a luxury, and we’ve been in lockdown so it’s not quite so straightforward, but practise makes perfect 🙂
-Work as a Team – if one partner expects the other to look after the children all the time, cut up their food, take them to the toilet, entertain them, order for them, discipline them and encourage them, it’s not going to work. This is a family meal so a family effort is required. No negotiation on this one! Pull your weight.
-Bring a relative. Often kids will behave better for a grandparent, and the granny is delighted to help when parents are feeling beaten.
-And if it doesn’t work out we generally remove the kids from the restaurant for a five minute chat, then try again. Of course we’ve have to do this, but we don’t want to give them into trouble, just take them outside and let them run, shout or talk things through before heading back inside. They’re only little after all.
-If you feel spending money dining out in an expensive venue with your kids is a waste, then don’t do it. Stick to what makes you happy. It’s your spare time, your cash, and your family. 😊And if you are going to go for it – good luck – may the force be with you.
Quick 5 Child Friendly ‘Posh’ Hotels & Restaurants
Gleneagles, Perthshire – über child friendly with a free kids’ club.
The Fife Arms, Braemar – dishes up ‘muckle dishes’ for kids and has a good games room.
Also want to mention Gleddoch Hotel & Spa for a decent a la carte kids menu and super friendly staff – check thier prices here. And a shout out to the staff at Cringletie House Hotel in Peebles who made family dining so relaxed. Make a weekend break of it here.
And we’ve booked Miller & Carter for its junior steak offering, hoping it will be able to reopen asap!