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Your play area sucks!

 
What would kids say if we asked them about “family-friendly” establishments?
temper tantrum
By Scott Dunlop

Pic: Shutterstock

One of the endless jobs for parents is finding a place to take your kids for a milkshake, lunch or birthday celebration. There are loads of restaurants, coffee shops and even pubs with play areas calling themselves “family-friendly”. But are they really? How do you think your child would review them? Well, here’s a review of the average family-friendly restaurant, from a child’s point of view:

Welcome

The tall guy at the door might see me this time. Sometimes I have to YELL just so he knows to ask “table for five”, instead of just taking us to a four-seater because he hasn’t noticed me. It’s also a win if he actually says something to me, “hello”. Of course, too much is too much, and I DON’T want to be picked up or tickled, thanks.

Tables

Actually, the problem here is the height between the seat of the chair and the table. It’s obvious- if the chair is too low, my nose will barely make it over the table, and my view will be of the salt cellar. It’s also likely that my milkshake won’t make it as far as my mouth, unless I stand in my chair, but will slop onto the floor. That makes me cry, and you really don’t want that.

Menu

If you have a full kids menu, then that’s pretty cool. Good for you! I do want pictures of the food, please, because I can’t read, remember? If you just add “snails au gratin” or “spinach lasagna” onto the main menu as options for children, then that’s hardly, let’s be honest, a child-friendly menu.

Tableware

One place I went to had a great idea: Takeaway cups, with lids and a straw, for milkshakes. Much wiser than those top-heavy buckets the size of my head which I end up tipping all over my mom. Plastic cups are ok, as long as they’re clean and without bite marks. A tip? Always give me a spoon, please- I’m a toddler, so my knife and fork action needs some work. And if you give me a steak knife? Well, the surface of your table becomes your responsibility. I like stabbing.

“Activities”

After dad asked twice, you found a page for me to colour in. Thank you. I love the way you saw my inner Turner, too. You know Turner? The artist who painted in shades of bleurgh? I can only assume you want me to do the same, as you gave me two crayons, both broken and brown. One was a little soggy. The blob of dough you swapped it with was ok, only it isn’t play-dough, so all I could do was make small, throwable blobs. That WAS fun.

Play area

Being kneed in the face by strange kids is cool, and that’s why I love your bouncy castle. 10 points, right there! It’s much better than having to stand behind seven kids all queuing for the one Playstation game, or having to beg my parents for change to get a small toy out of the machine.

Jungle gyms

It’s summer, and my parents want a nice cool beer, so they take us to the pub (I know, I am thinking of getting them into a programme for that). We go to the “family-friendly” pub. The one with the jungle gym. Look, I have SEEN jungle gyms, and that platform with one swing and a slide is not a jungle gym. All I can do there is cower in the corner while the bigger kids hog everything. The alternative for me is to run in and out of the legs of waiters carrying trays of glasses...

But wait, there’s more...

If I spend more time negotiating with mom and dad than Facebook did in purchasing Instagram, I may get one of the restaurant’s treat at the end of the meal. This could be a toy which shoots disks straight onto the floor, or one which makes a tinny musical noise until the day the batteries (mercifully) die, six months later. That’s if mom and dad can ever retrieve them from under the car seats.

Last but not least

If I want to go for a wee (or a number two), I need clean toilets. If your loos are a mess, then I end up touching the stinky urinal, or getting my pants soaked in the flooded stall. I need to be able to reach the taps, because I’m learning about hygiene, and I want at least a paper towel to dry my hands. That’s not too much to ask, right? Also, unless you want mom changing my nappy on the restaurant floor, you’d better have a baby-changing room. Thank you.

Just a few pointers, ok? Please make sure that if you call your place “family-friendly”, it really is, otherwise you’ll find lots of depressed adults and frustrated kids bickering and wanting to leave as soon as possible. The truth is, if you’re inviting kids, you need to be flexible, please, and have a good sense of humour.

P.S. If mom needs to breastfeed my sister, you'd better be sure that you can all cope with the "trauma". Thanks.

What do you think makes a restaurant “family-friendly”?

 
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