1. Hone in on venues with a family-friendly vibe. There should be a perfect ratio of space, airiness and light, with a design that’s not too fancy but with just the right touches for kids to feel a homely atmosphere. Ideally, the venue should also be happy to warm up your baby’s milk and provide off-menu items for tots being weaned, such as a small portion of mashed fruit. Before you sit down, it is also worth double-checking there are baby-changing facilities nearby.
2. Check out the menu in advance. Make sure you pick places where toddlers and older kids can order food they are familiar with. A restaurant with a tasty kids’ menu that includes firm favourites, such as our spaghetti bolognaise, oven-baked crispy chicken tenders, mac and cheese, and turkey-and-cheese crêpes, will certainly make them smile and encourage even the pickiest eaters to finish their meals.
3. Ask for nibbles straight away. When you first get seated, ask the waiter to bring some nibbles such as breadsticks to keep little ones busy and stop them getting cranky while you are waiting for your food.
4. Hone in on activities. Check that the venue puts enough effort into making little customers feel welcome so you don’t have to slip them the iPad. Clever extras such as an arts-and-crafts corner and board games will keep the kids entertained while giving you the peace and quiet needed to enjoy your meal.
5. Offer a dessert for good behaviour. Keep them engaged for longer by letting them tuck into a healthy dessert if they behave well throughout the meal. Whole-wheat muffins and croissants, whole-wheat pancakes with real maple syrup, and yoghurt ice cream topped with frozen berries and granola are just some of the dishes that are popular sweets among customers of all ages.
Nathalie Haddad is a dietician and founder and managing director of Nathalie’s café in Dubai Sports City, located at FitRepublik, www.nathalies.ae.
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