When I was a kid, restaurants gave us crayons and paper to keep us occupied while the adults enjoyed their meal. It was probably a good enough distraction at the time, but now, colouring can hardly hold a child's attention for long thanks to the invention of the iPad and smartphones.
Today, it seems rare to find a child at a restaurant engaged in conversation or even colouring for an entire meal. I always see kids engrossed in a game on one device or another. Most parents bring devices from home. On difficult days I'm guilty of it too: I'll hand over my phone to one of my kids for a chance at a few moments of peace and quiet.
Now, even restaurants are supplying kids with devices while they eat. My boyfriend took his daughter to a local pub and marvelled at the video games they gave to kids. He thought it would be a great way to keep the kids preoccupied while we ate.
At first I was impressed. "Let's take the kids there!" I said at the time.
Since then I've had a change of heart. Yes, video games are a great way to keep kids quiet at restaurants yet I can't help but wonder if parents are missing out on a chance to teach our kids other things, like how to share a meal with friends and family, perfect table manners or even enjoy their food. It's almost appalling when you think about it: we bring kids out to restaurants just to find ways to keep them quiet.
I'd like my kids to learn how to make conversation. I'd like them to learn how to sit still. How to use their napkin and speak to wait staff politely. Instead, perhaps we're raising kids who will grow up with no dinner etiquette; who will sit at a table and use their phones instead of engaging the person sitting across from them.
If we need a break from our kids, why not just go out without them? Or endure difficult dinners until they learn how to behave properly at a restaurant. If we don't want to use restaurants as teaching opportunities, shouldn't we just stay home or order in?
What do you think?