Fine Dining with Preschoolers – Mission Possible

Over the weekend, we celebrated the boys’ Great Grandma’s birthday at a top-notch Chinese restaurant. Now I’m ordinarily as game as the next person for good food. But the prospect of putting two preschoolers in the company of breakable tableware, exotic ingredients, and waitresses carrying bowls of hot soup had me a little nervous.

So here are my survival tips for fine dining with the kids. They won’t make the occasion stress-free, but they might help you leave with sanity intact!

  • If you expect the menu to comprise mostly things the kids won’t eat, feed them ahead of time. Most restaurants will also look the other way if you bring in outside food for very young children.
  • Ask for plastic tableware for the kids, and move all breakables as far out of arm/elbow reach as possible.
  • Arm yourself with wipes or tissue paper. Accidents will happen, and if you can start the mop-up operation before the waitresses respond to the SOS, so much the better.
  • They will get bored! If you don’t want them playing hide-and-seek or catching at the restaurant, have some ideas up your sleeve. Here are a few:
    • Many parents use their cellphones or other electronic devices as a distractions.
    • Bring a notepad and crayons (or markers for older kids whom you can trust not to stain the linen)
    • Play a game with toothpicks. Get them to design a house, a car, a train. Or see how many braised peanuts they can skewer from one dish to another in 30 seconds (only if the other guests at table don’t mind!)
    • Set up a tic-tac-toe grid with chopsticks and play with coins.

A note to anyone organising a fine dining event: if you’re expecting some kids, speak to the restaurant about setting up a play corner with some mess-free toys and party favours. I went to a wedding where the couple had even set up a TV with kids videos playing all night – no matter where you stand on the great TV debate, you’ll have to admit that’s a pretty smart solution!


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