Our family enjoys eating out and trying different cuisines; it’s one of our favorite things to do. When my kids learned how to read, they were very excited every time we ate out and will ask for a menu for themselves. To be able to read the menu’s options for themselves gave them a triumphant look on their faces.
In a restaurant, when a server comes to take our orders, they will usually ask me or my husband (adults first), then I would look at my children and say “Are you ready to order? What would you like?”
When water or drinks are served and cutlery has been placed on our table, I would always say “thank you” and my children will do the same (modeling behavior is very important!).
While waiting for the order, my children would usually color in a coloring page provided by the restaurant. Or, they can read a book (I usually remind them to bring a book whenever we go out, it’s very handy!). If not, we just play a game, something made up on the spot (I spy is usually easier).
During meal time, if they want anything extra they would tell me, “Mum, can you please ask for tomato ketchup?” I would reply “why don’t you ask the server?” as I always encourage them to ask the server instead of me doing it for them.
This enables them to feel included in the experience and it such a joy to see them beaming with confidence. This also teaches them manners when interacting with other people.
We also observe the same etiquette (expectation) when we eat at home such as:
No phones during meal time
Have plenty of conversation
Wait for everybody to finish their meal
Don’t stuff yourself too much if you want dessert at the end of the meal (this is our golden rule as we live for dessert!
Teaching grace and courtesy when being modeled is easier for children to absorb rather than giving a whole spiel about it. Remember, children are always watching.
**If you have toddlers, best to avoid eating out when they are tired. They will be more cooperative when they are well rested and not too hungry.