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July 31, 2018

Some {Screen Free} Thoughts on Restaurants

One of my favorite things about living in a city is the wide variety of restaurants available for us to enjoy. It's something we do quite often. And, more often than not, our children are with us as we enjoy these new experiences. We want our kids to appreciate the experience as much as we do. We want them to fully engage in the experience, but we also want to enjoy it ourselves. It can be a tricky situation. 

Montessori parenting - some thoughts on going to restaurants with young children without using screens to entertain them.

We often see children glued into a variety of electronic devices when we're out to eat. Phones, iPads, and game consoles are common sights in restaurants. But, as a screen-free family, that simply is not an option for us. I want my children to be fully engaged in the experience, and all of the wonderful opportunities it presents. I don't want them simply to be quiet or busy.

But, there are somethings that we do to help make the experience more enjoyable and successful: 
  • Chose the right time to go. Don't wait until everyone is starving to attempt a busy restaurant. If you know somewhere is likely to be busy, consider a less popular time or come with kids that have eaten a small snack. We often eat a late-lunch/early-dinner at popular restaurants so that the wait time isn't too long. 
  • Engage your child in the process. Give your child choices, from where to sit at the table, to what to eat and ordering on their own. If child feels included, they are more likely to engage constructively.  
  • Give your child real dishes. It's a sign of trust and respect. And children, especially Montessori children who are used to these materials, understand the importance of treating these things with care. It often slows them down a bit and makes them feel included and important in this process. 
  • Give your child real food. Instead of ordering from a kids menu, try smaller dishes from the regular menu. Or, share with your child. An appetizer often is a good option for a child. Don't water down the experience, just because your child is young. 
  • Don't be afraid to take a movement break. Kids need to move - especially younger toddlers. Taking a small break from the table to walk to the bathroom, or walk outside is alright! Change your expectations about how still a child can be, because it's often not that still! 
  • Use the meal as an opportunity to connect. Hold yourself to the same rules that you hold your kids to - no screens at the table. Talk to them, ask them questions about their food, include them in conversation, make them an active part of a successful experience. If a restaurant offers coloring or some small entertainment, enjoy it with your child. 
  • Use the opportunity to model and practice grace and courtesy. Practice how to order, how to hold a menu, how to ask for something to be passed, what volume to speak at, and other basic manners. 
Montessori parenting - some thoughts on going to restaurants with young children without using screens to entertain them.

Of course there are challenges that arise and not every dining experience is perfect. There are those restaurants that have 100 televisions everywhere. Or, someone is just not feeling the experience. There are times when patience is short, the hangries are strong, or someone needs a rest. And, in those moments, we try to remember that they are only children. The expectations for children's behavior in public is so unrealistic. And, it's totally alright if your child needs a minute, or if you just have to take your food to go. It happens, and you'll try again! 
"A child who has become master of his acts through long and repeated exercises, and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline." Maria Montessori 
Montessori parenting - some thoughts on going to restaurants with young children without using screens to entertain them.

How do you handle restaurants with your children? 


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Ashlea said…
I love this! We go out to eat every Friday and follow all of these suggestions. There have been plenty of times when we have had to get our food boxed and leave but overall its such good family time. We have the best discussions about global food/ cultures, how restaurants work or just things we see/ hear in the restaurant. I wish people in general were more comfortable with children making noise at restaurants, I know friends that are worried about looks from other customers if their kids are Traveling abroad you see what an American idea this is and that children and their need to talk, question and move is embraced in most other countries. Again, LOVE this post :)