Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Restaurant Readiness

If you’re planning a trip to a restaurant or somewhere else where you want your children to behave in a quiet, refined manner (ha!), make sure you go prepared!  While some restaurants cater to children and have supplies on hand, like crayons, crackers, etc. – never assume!
Simple To-Dos for a Relaxed Meal:
Bring your own snack: Since the wait can be long and good service can take time, bring along something to stave off the hunger! Stash some crackers, pretzels or fruit snacks in a small container – little snacks like pretzels sticks, goldfish or teddy bear cookies also have the added benefit of play – make shapes, play counting games, tell stories, etc. A little imagination goes a long way! If you have packed some folded computer paper that can be turned into a special placemat, your child can make "bowls" for the goldfish or forests for the bears to hide in!

Pack a surprise kit:  Use a small container or pencil case to hold some interesting objects for your child to play with. (Mine all fit in a sandwich sized plastic bag!) Leave out anything that will break, make noises, or leave permanent marks! Include small soft toys like finger puppets, one or two cars or figures, tiny playdoh containers, as well as little stickers, a mini-notebook and just a few crayons or a pencil …. And, you are set for anything! Make sure that some of your items are do-alone things, as you probably want to enjoy your meal, as well! J (Hint: Next time you have something that comes in the cereal box or an extra McDonalds toy, stash it in a special place to be resurrected – “new” is always exciting!)
Schedule smart:  Sometimes our expectations for our children are completely out of line with reality! If possible, try to schedule your dinner out to be within a normal range for your child – expecting a child to be charming when it’s already way past their regular bedtime is just setting yourself up for failure! If it’s not optional because you are a guest or it’s a special occasion, consider a mini-meal at your child’s regular meal time before going to the restaurant, and just grazing at the restaurant. Less stress is always better!
Use the opportunity to go over good manners – role play before your visit, allowing your child to take on different roles. Practice how to properly ask for something and how to express appreciation! We can’t expect them to be born with social skills -  prior “play” should make them more comfortable and avoid some potential pitfalls!
Those children who are able can also be put to work with menus - write down their favorite food on a sticky note or a bit of paper - e.g."chicken" or "pasta" - and have them find it in the menu. Finding individual letters would work for younger learners! Developing skills with oral language by just relaxing, enjoying each others' company and having conversation is always wonderful, too!
So, on this trip to the restaurant, you will be exposing your child to new situations, broadening their vocabularies, giving them opportunities for math exploration, letter recognition, imaginative play and working on small motor skills – and, hopefully, enjoying yourself as well!!

Have fun!

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