Eating out with the kids. That statement is enough to bring on anxiety and sweats in the best of us, because trying to keep little ones still for long enough to get some food down them is no easy task! From the moment you walk into your eatery of choice you have to guide them through a whole new set of social expectations that, quite often, just don’t fly with kids!
The first hurdle is picking your table of choice – do you go for a table view so you can play ‘spot the yellow car’ and other games that you hope will keep them occupied for a few minutes – or do you go for a booth seat (which you may later regret as they have mistaken it for a climbing frame)?
Then its choosing some food, aka convincing your children not to pick the over-priced kids lunch boxes when you know they will only eat the chocolate bar, oh and possibly the yoghurt too. But only if you’ve come equipped with enough baby wipes to mop up on entire yogurt.
Now the hard bit, hold still while the food comes, oh please please please let there be no delay in the kitchen today! Maybe they should invent a fast kitchen checkout for families?!
Phew, the food is here! Just when you think you may get a few moments calm to enjoy a bite of your food, (that is after sorting out cutlery, chopping everything small enough, blowing everything until it’s so cold you wonder why the chef cooked it at all), you hear “I need a drink”, or worse, “I need a wee”, or worse….!
Finally it’s over, you can now relax because you can now leave at any time you like… that is if you can get your children to come out from underneath the table.
But it’s not all hard work! We are incredibly lucky to live in a city where we have a huge variety of family friendly places to eat, from the 851 Playcafe on Ecclesall Road that specifically caters for young children, to places like Pizza Express and Wagamama that have a great approach to families and have colouring in on tap. Or even your nearest supermarket such as Sainsbury’s Wadsley Bridge where they have a great view over the A61 and Hillsborough Valley – perfect for a game of ‘count the lorries’ while you quickly sip your tea!
Every family is different, and we’ll all be looking for different things when we go out for a meal, whether it’s somewhere to warm some milk, a comfortable place to feed, a highchair or somewhere with that provides colouring or play for the little ones to enjoy. There is guaranteed to be somewhere in our city that works for you.
And if all else fails, then get yourself down to the Winter Gardens for a picnic (or the Peace Gardens if the sun’s out!). A must for every Sheffield family.
Here are our top tips for maximising your chances of enjoying your meal out with a young family:
- Take a table game and some snacks to cope with the waiting game. Some of our favourite table games are Dobble, Pass the Pigs, or taking some colouring in and stickers.
- Plan to eat early and find a table with a bit of space around it. There’s nothing worse than trying to juggle hungry children and trying to get that last table!
- Go with other families – children will be able to interact and play with each other, and the adults have someone to talk to too. It also comes with the added bonus that your child may try new foods if they see their friends trying it.
- Don’t always go for the kids menu, if you’re on a budget it can really pay to look at sharing meals between kids to save pennies, or get something small and share a plate of chips.
- Take your own beaker, particularly useful for younger children so you can relax knowing your child won’t spill their drink everywhere, and you can take it home if they don’t finish it.
- Serviettes… never, ever underestimate how many serviettes you need!
Kate, Little Sheffield
Little Sheffield is an information service for families, we share family friendly events, playgroups, classes, activities, local attractions and more! We are run by local mums, most of whom volunteer is their spare time to keep our service running. We also apply for funding so that we can run family events and play sessions throughout the year