My family loves going out to eat. We enjoy trying new foods, we relish the time together, and most of all, I appreciate not having to cook or clean up!
We've taken our daughters out to restaurants since they were a week old, and now, at nearly nine years old, they can hold their own in the fanciest establishments. Of course, we've had some mortifying moments along the way, but for the most part, their restaurant manners have always been outstanding.
I'll never forget one time when the girls were about three. We were at a fairly nice establishment; let's just see that "Happy Meals" were not on the menu! The girsl were behaving fairly well, but typically for toddlers. There were no disturbing outbursts, but they didn't speak in hushed tones either! The older couple at the next table kept glancing our way. As they finished up their meal and prepared to exit the restaurant, they paused at our table. "I just have one question..." the gentleman intoned.
"Oh, here we go!" I thought. Here comes one of the usual stupid questions that people ask about having twins. How do we cope? How do we tell them apart? I braced myself.
"Do you know how blessed you are to have such lovely daughters?" the man queried with a smile. Instantly, I relaxed and smiled back. "Yes," I responded. "Indeed, I do."
Here are some tips to help your family enjoy a pleasurable dining out experience. You don't have to leave your twins or multiples at home when eating in restaurants. You just have to plan ahead and adjust your expectations.
Location, location, location.
Choose multiple-friendly establishments. Quiet, elegant bistros are not the place for kids, especially multiples. There are plenty of other places with good food and a family-friendly atmosphere. Look for restaurants with a high noise level. That way, your duo's chatter -- or tantrums -- won't be as disturbing to the other diners. Choose places with a fun, busy style that has plenty of decor to look at and talk about with the kids.
Quick service is also preferred. Ideally, you'll want to be seated immediately after arriving, and don't want a long lag in between courses. Buffets and salad bars are great with kids, because you have access to the food whenever you want it. Mexican restaurants are another good bet; they usually have a quick turnaround, with the added benefit of serving chips and salsa when you're seated.
It pays to call ahead. If you've never been to the restaurant before, ask about their provisions for young people. Many smaller establishments only have one or two high chairs. If you need more, you're out of luck. Save yourself the frustation and call ahead to confirm that they can accomodate you.
Some kid-friendly restaurants provide crayons and even games to keep your kids occupied at the table. But you're better off coming prepared with your own gear. Pack a bag with books, crayons and paper and small toys. It's great to have things that are new or unfamiliar to the children; they'll hold their attention longer.
Also consider bringing your own supply of snacks. Hunger is one of the main reasons that kids act out. Be sure you have something to take the edge off: bottles or sippy cups for younger twins, juice boxes and crackers for older ones.
A well-equipped diaper bag is a necessity for babies and toddlers, even after they've potty trained. An ample supply of diapers and wipes, as well as a change of clothes will help ensure that your dinner is not destroyed because of a diaper incident.
Timing Is Everything
Timing can mean the difference between a marvelous meal and disastrous dining. Avoid crunch times -- both your children's and the restaurant's. Follow your twins' schedule. Choose dining times when they're usually happy and alert; don't try to go out when they're too hungry, sleepy or cranky.
Hopefully, those times will coincide with the restaurant's off-peak hours. Prime dining hours around lunch and dinner mean more crowds, busier servers and more waiting -- which only creates more frustration for your family!
Enlist the help of your server in accomodating your twins' hunger. Order their meals as soon as you sit down, and ask the server to bring them out as soon as possible. (Just be aware that your children will be finished and ready to leave just as you're served your entree!) Many restraurants will keep your table plied with crackers, bread or other snacks; use these freebies to keep little mouths and hands busy while they wait.
Read on for more eating out essentials.