Dining out with children can be stressful at times, but we feel increased exposure to new environments and starting at an early age will decrease the stress factor. Our blog post on how to survive dining out with children is a great resource to assist in this area. Other than the obvious reasons such as having the night off cooking and dishes, there are wonderful reasons as to why you should persist with dining in restaurants with children.
We feel that the experience children have with food outside the house, also translates to their relationship with food inside the house. Our blog contributor, Marie-France at Fussy Eater Solutions, has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in this area. Marie-France specialises in early intervention with children and works together with families to assist with the fussy eating of their children.
To minimise fussy eating when it comes to the early years; here are a few tips to consider.
– Multiple exposures to new foods at an early age to increase their palates tastes away from their preferred sweet and salty foods.
– Allowing your child the choice whether they eat their meal without any pressure.
– Eating the same meals at the same time with your children, will encourage them to try new foods.
– Not offering alternatives if a child chooses not to eat, will teach your child that they have one opportunity for their meal and you won’t return with their favourite food.
– Offering something on their plate, that you know they love, paired with a new food.
– Encourage children to be part of the meal preparation process.
– Make meal times enjoyable and fun.
– Let them get messy with their food. Children love to explore with more than just their mouth.
– Have fun with food presentation
With these things in mind, you can use the same set of ideas in restaurants.
With every new restaurant you visit, you are modelling the positive relationship with food. You’re eating together as a family and exposing them to new foods. While you may consider only a “safe” option for your children, this is the opportunity to offer them something from your plate. You are teaching your children table manners and social etiquette and these skills are transferable between home meals and out of the house.
When it comes to benefits for parents, you are receiving a well deserved break from cooking and cleaning. You also have the opportunity to eat a meal that you have longed for that your children may not accept. Eating out also excites children and you may find they love something new and this can inspire you to attempt some of these new tastes at home for the children in your own cooking. Finally, sitting down for a meal out of the house allows you to focus on the quality time with your children and friends that may be dining with you.
It’s important that meal times are used to engage and spend quality time as a family. With our survival bags guide, we have many interactive toys and books which create starting points of conversation. We recently came across Around The Table cards, which are a great set of activity cards specifically designed as conversation starters or games at the dinner table. The activity cards have been designed, as research has proven the benefits of eating together as a family increases children’s resilience and self esteem. Proven benefits also include reducing lower rates of eating disorders and lower rates of depression.
We believe it matters where you dine. As mentioned above, encouraging children to be involved in preparation and being hands on food with matters. Recently, we visited The Rise Pizzeria for a pizza making class with my son. He absolutely loved making his own pizza and at the completion of the session, he ate a large portion of his pizza. Since this experience, he also is requesting ham more and more since including it on his pizza.
While this class is only during school holidays, there are many opportunities from cafes and restaurants that allow your children to be involved. You should keep your eyes peeled for sessions that allow your children to create or decorate their own food. Everyday options include restaurants that are interactive, such as sushi train restaurants, teppenyaki and venues that have open kitchens such as Lady Green, where children are able to view their food and make it fun for them!
Finally, teach your children to have fun with different cuisines. Let them play with chop sticks to get them excited with new foods. Order bento boxes to get them excited over compartmental foods. Find venues that have fun with decorating baby chinos. There is always somewhere to start and encourage your children to be more adventurous as time goes on.