Not all restaurants and cafés need or want to be family-friendly but, for those that do, here is my list of little things that make a big difference to parents, grandparents, friends and family eating or snacking out with children. Thank you to some marvelous women of Instagram for sending in contributions to this list!
1. Wide, buggy-friendly or automatic doors
2. Plenty of safe, clean, easy-to-use high-chairs
3. Space between tables for babies in buggies
4. Someone to take and somewhere to store buggies that aren’t needed at the table
5. A variety of seating types is great – comfy couches are particularly welcome when nursing or bottle-feeding
6. A healthy kids’ menu – smaller portions of the main menu are great, alongside some fail-safe beige favourites! Pasta pesto and Spag Bol are a must in my book. Check out the Restaurant Association of Ireland’s Kids Size Me initiative here 
7. Big, dedicated, clean unisex baby-changing facilities, preferably with a toilet, wash basin and room for a buggy – see my earlier blog post! 
8. Wait staff who are trained to take kids’ orders (and grown-ups’ drinks orders 😂) quickly and prioritise them with the kitchen
9. Lots of good crayons and colouring paper – nothing too fancy; scrap paper is ideal
10. Tabletop toys – on our first foreign holiday as a foursome in Portugal last year, our favourite restaurant had about 20 IKEA Mula bead rollercoasters – they were lifesavers!! At €13 each a café/restaurant will get a great return on these as they are sturdy and easy to wipe clean.
11. A play area with blocks, dinosaurs, dolls, some duplo and bead rollercoasters can be life-changing!! 
12. Small dessert options for kids to keep them happy while the grown-ups hoover up their mains. Size is key – one scoop of ice-cream with sauce and sprinkles is enough in my view. They are happy without the ensuing sugar-induced madness!!!! 
13. A small sheet of stickers with dessert and more scrap paper – it’s something new to distract while the grown-ups finish, pay and pack up. They can be taken home and are inexpensive. 
14. A family zone of tables can be great – you can all chow down in a blaze of noise together!
15. Staff training – in addition to bringing kids’ food quickly, there are some other bits that can make a big difference:

  • Be really attentive please – sometimes we need the bill ASAP to cut and run.
  • Safety is a big deal too – please whisk away sharp knives, don’t pass a teapot over a feeding baba and place hot drinks away from kiddos please! Thank you

Please add any additional thoughts to the comments below and I’ll update the post.

Copyright © Úna Maguire 2019