The Top Tips for Making Dining Out with Your Children a More Pleasant Experience

                      By Maura J. Graber of The R.S.V.P Institute of Etiquette

* Try to make sure your children are well rested.  When possible, consider their schedules in your planning.  Children who are tired, are more apt to be cranky and can act very hyper.

* Calculate the length of time since your children have last eaten and when you reasonably expect to be served your meal. If it will be longer than two hours, give your child a small snack of raisins or other foods that are easy to eat in your vehicle, without making a gooey or crumbly mess.  Low blood sugar can make children hyper.

* Come up with things each family member can talk about at the table.  Make it a game and the kids will enjoy the conversation more. 

* Brief your children on what behavior is expected before you get into the restaurant.  Remind them of the manners they have been taught  by you and make sure to give them 'do's, not a lot of 'don'ts'.  Example: "Do put your napkin in your lap before food or drinks are put on the table." or "You can play with your toy, but do play quietly so that others are not bothered."  Giving a child a list of 'don't do this and don't do that' rarely works.  List off a hundred things they don't get to do, and their imaginations will come up with hundreds more you didn't think to cover!

* If possible, ask for a table and chairs rather than a booth. Booths, by their design, invite kids to slide on under them. Chairs, especially with arms, have a way of containing kids, and can be pushed closer to the table.

* Let your kids "kick the air, not the table or chair" if their feet do not touch the floor.  If your legs didn't touch the floor, you would get an unconscious urge to move them around too.  That is why kicking table legs and kicking the backs of seats starts for kids.  Their legs are not getting needed circulation.
* Avoid soft drinks that contain caffeine. Educate yourself about which brands contain it and to what extent.  Some soft drinks, for example, have nearly three times the amount of caffeine as others.
* If your child is small, ask that glasses only be filled half-way unless the restaurant has child-sized drinks and ask servers to limit the amount of ice in cold beverages. Melting ice forms condensation on glasses, which causes slips and spills.  Ice can also be a choking hazard for toddlers, and simply invites noisy ice-chewing in older kids.

* Be patient with your children and try to have fun.  It may just turn out to be a wonderful learning experience for the whole family.


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