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Dining with 2 1/2 yr. old grandchild (long)

I take care of my granddaughter 2 days a week. Over the summer I had her and her 6 yr. old brother and we got into a habit to go to a fast food place one a week. It was mainly for the inside play area, because I don't like the food. So now the boy is back in school, and I have never taken Bella out to eat by myself. We usually meet her mom somewhere. Yesterday Bella decided, at 9 am no less, that she wanted to go out to eat - McDonalds! I told her no, not McDonalds! She kept on with "Gigi, let's go out to eat." So I mulled it over and decided that sounded like a good idea, but not fast food. There is a Chinese Restaurant close by that I have been wanting to try, so I told her we would go get Chinese. That excited her, she loves chinese food.

We head out around 11:15, and she grabbed her sunglasses on the way out! So cute! She usually puts up a fight over sitting in a booster chair, but she is too short w/o one, so that was the first rule; if you don't sit in the booster chair we will leave immediately. She agreed. The place was pretty empty, and the hostess was charmed by Bella. We had to figure out how to get her close to the table, in the booster seat, because of the large base on the bottom of the table. The hostess took control, making sure she was in a safe spot and wouldn't fall.

I wasn't sure what to order for us, so I started with a "Bo Bo Platter" which was 2 egg rolls, 2 fried shrimp, 2 crab rangoons, 2 paper wrapped chickens, and 4 BBQ ribs. She patiently waited and we talked a bit. When the food arrived it was so freshly made it was 2 hot to eat. She grabbed a crab rangoon, blew on it, and took a few nibble around the edge. Then she got an eggroll. This was not the usual finely processed (read mushy) type. It was full of large pieces of vegetable and I don't know what all was in there, but she dug into it. I took a shrimp, which was about 4 inches long, and took a bite. I didn't know if she ate shrimp or not, but when I took a bite, she asked for a bite, so I gave her half of it and she wolfed it down. She polished off her crab puff, which really had crab in it, not just the cream cheese so many place offer, and I cut off the meat from a rib and that was gone soon, too.

For our meal I ordered the sesame chicken, not spicy. I wasn't sure what she would like. It came with another eggroll, soup and pork fried rice. Usually you get an overwhelming pile of rice and not so much meat. Well this was on a platter with a couple handfulls of rice and enough chicken for a family of 3. Bella went crazy for the rice. She kept stealing it right off the platter with her little hands. I wrestled it away and served her, and she gobbled it down. Now she is good with silverware, but I didn't think to bring the child size ones, so she had to deal with the large one, and tired very hard, but half of it was eaten with her hands.

The entire meal our hostess, and waitress kept coming over complimenting her on being so quiet and such a good girl. I was so proud of her. She kept waving at the people in the restaurant, saying "Hi" and everyone was pleasant to her. And she was carrying on a conversation with me, asking what was I doing, did I like this and that, and telling me she was happy. When we got done she put her shades on and sauntered out like a little lady. Great experience and we will be dining in sit down places more often!

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  1. What a sweet story! Chinese restaurants at a young age snapped my son out of being a picky eater.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gin and It

      That is a sweet story, and I enjoyed reading all of it.

      BTW -- my daughter was taken out to her first Chinese restaurant at two weeks old. She has never stopped asking for Chinese food in 15 years.

    2. Just perfect and u did your grand daughter a big favor by opening that little palate !! Good for you and better for her !

      1. Name the place and town so others may enjoy!

        1 Reply
        1. Bella sounds like quite a darling. It seems that if you give a child something you are eating, saying that you like it, they are frequently willing to try it. I've seen too many people stunting their kids' palate by saying eeeuw don't eat [whatever], that's gross! or wierd! such a shame. Lucky Bella to have you to into her to new foods. :)

          1. good for you spending time with your grandkids, we have a hard time getting my mom to babysit as often as it sounds like you do.

            As for the food, yes expose her to as much as you can. We took our 20 month old daughter to a Vietnamese restaurant(Tank Noodle - Chicago) on Saturday for lunch, and she devoured everything we ordered. She loved the bowl of Pho, the broth and noodles, and the thin slices of beef. She also enjoyed the grilled shrimp, beef, over vermacelli noodles served with cucuber sliced. The grilled lobster tail, Vietnamese sausage, pork chop, and sunny side up egg over a cous-cous style jasmine rice was also a favorite. She picked up the pork chop, and ate the meat off the bone. Of course we got some bbq fried rice, and she ate her fill.

            We have not had issues with our daughter at any sit-down restaurant, from $300 steak dinners downtown Chicago, to Chinese, Middle Eastern, and rib joints. If she gets antsy(she doesnt cry when we are out) we just take turns taking her from the table & go outside, or to the bar area(thankfully they are all non-smoking these days). That wasnt needed @ the Vietnamese place, she was too busy eating. We just exposed her to dining out at an early age hoping and it has worked out for us.

            1. Thanks for the compliments everyone, but I cannot take full credit. Her parents have taken her to chinese buffets, and Vietnamese restaurants for a long time. The really big deal is that when we go out as a family, mom, dad, brother, gigi, poppa, aunt and her BF, then Bella can be a bit louder, and less cooperative. But taking her out one-on-one and setting the rules before hand worked perfectly. And I will say that Bella and I often have to split the last spring roll at our Vietnamese place. I think we could eat our weight in those! I did NOT know she liked crab or shrimp, but she does!

              Now to respond to rednyellow's statement: "Children are inherently loud, curious, playful, inquisitive, impatient. " Not all of them. I have never understood the mentality of parent/grandparents who thought it was fine to let their child loose in a restaurant. I have literally taken a child back to it's parents saying "did you know he was wandering around?" See the story about children and parents on the Chow site. http://www.chow.com/stories/11169

              And believe me, I will give Bella CHOW! Next time I think we will go to a Thai place I like, since her parents are unsure about Thai food. I'll bet Bella will love it! Keep her mouth full and she is pretty happy. Oh, and she is not a fat child, either. Healthy, but not fat!

              One more thing, I lived in Texas and my grandparents lived in Ohio, so I relish the time I have with them, as I didn't get mush of that in my life! For you folks that don't have grandchildren, let me just say that they are so much fun. Should have had them first! LOL!

              1. She's better behaved than some of my(adult) in-laws.

                1 Reply
                1. She sounds like she'll be eager to try using chopsticks next time. Glad you opted for something other than fast food.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: lgss

                    rednyellow didnt understand the intention of this thread -- there are plenty of other placed here on CHOW to whine and carp about little children in restaurants. Dani was sharing her sharing experience and I am loving this! I nominate Bella to be the youngest Chowhound in Houston! (And I will also check out China Doll -- any place that actually puts crab in the crab rangoon will have my business forever!!)

                    1. re: Cheflambo

                      I too think this is a great story, so sweet. I'm wondering how many of those loud rude adults were never taken out to nice restaurants...vicious cycle? I think it is very cool that you are letting Bella try different foods, I always cringe when I hear a child ask to taste something only to have their parents say, "Oh no, you wont like it"....let them see if they like it or not! My son eats everything....except pineapple and jello both of which make him gag, go figure.

                      1. re: Cheflambo

                        I think another thing that factors into this example is the decor and ambiance of the place. This is a very beautifully decorated chinese restaurant. It has the lovely gold screens trimmed in red, the pieces of art that look like they were carved out of stone, enormous chandelier in the center of the room. We spent a lot of time discussing the "pitty" (pretty) flowers, and she was pointing at different things jabbering about them (I don't always know exactly what she is saying at this point, but she's getting better!) so I think the calm atmosphere made a difference. Maybe we should be less afraid of taking our little ones to nice places, because the Denny's of the world don't have much to look at! And they aren't very calm.

                    2. OMG, I just LOVED reading this! Way to go, "Gigi" for going there and having so many different foods! :-) Sounds like the restaurant name and Bella are two China Dolls. She's lucky to have you to introduce her to new foods - a little 'hound in the making!

                      1. Great story. :) I love to read things like this. We've been taking our little guy out to eat with us since he was about 9 months old (closer to 3 yrs for evening meals) and he loves it. Has no problem behaving himself and he's a great dining companion. He's not so little anymore (7 1/2 yrs) but we often go out to eat with Grandma and she adores having him with us. He even likes dressing the part when we go to higher end establishments. Life is good.

                        1. Way to go, Gigi! This is such a valuable lesson in how to accustom kids to a restaurant experience so that they don't become the obnoxious diner of ANY age.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: LJS

                            This is great! I started taking my daughter to different restaurants to try different foods at an early age and her faves are Thai, Mexican and sushi. I will send the leftovers to school with her the next day for lunch and her friends have been fascinated and want to try them--or go "EEEEWWWW!!". She laughs at them.

                            It's also important to teach table manners and restaurant behaviour, besides the new foods and cultures. But sometimes kids DO get restless and especially if you're with other adults, it's a good idea to bring a book, non beeping game (like a mini Etch-A-Sketch) or in a pinch the pen from your purse and let them draw on a paper napkin or place mat.

                            She sounds like a darling little girl and on her way to a sophisticated palate!

                            1. re: Whosyerkitty

                              How funny. My 2 1/5 year old grand daughter is named Annabelle (nicknamed "Belle"), and she calls me GiGi (for "gorgeous Grandmom"). She is a joy at a restaurant as long as she is not accompanied by her in-your-face brother who is 1 1/2. I am going to babysit for the day on Monday. I asked she what she wanted to do when I came, and she said she wants to bake cookies. I'm picking an oatmeal cookie recipie that used a bunch of fragrant spices so that she can have fun sniffing each one. Kids are so open to new ideas and experiences, it's a shame not to expose them to it. I have co-workers look at me like I am from Mars when I get Indian take-out for lunch or go to the local Korean place with a friend.

                              I remember when I was growing up my mother got very bored with cooking the same old stuff every day (she came from a PA German background) so she sought out things that were new and different. Of course back then (the '50s) "new and different" might have been a plate of real Italian pasta and meatballs or some tacos. Anyway, a cousin once commented that he liked coming to our house for dinner because "Aunt Eleanor doesn't cook normal food". Priceless. Then there was the time I went to a friend's for dinner & came home raving about the peas. They had such flavor & were so soft! Turns out they were canned - heavily salted. I had never had anything but fresh peas, and my mom did not use much salt even back then. When I married my husband (raised by a Scottish Grandmother), he had never had anything but over-cooked veggies and cooke-to-death meat. Garlic? What's that? My, how things have changed. I think I would have divorced him if he hadn't embraced ecclectic food choices!

                              1. re: PattiCakes

                                I haven't tried baking with her yet, but she likes to help me lay out our lunches when we eat at her house. Once it cools down a bit I think we will do a batch of cookies. Thanks for the idea! Now when her brother was around 3 I "tried" to make cookies with him, but he kept randomly adding ingredients, and it turned into a big mess! I learned a lesson. Put stuff out of reach, after you put it in the bowl!

                                1. re: danhole

                                  Well, Annabelle did very well with her baking experience. She knew what many of the ingredients were, insisted on tasting all of them (that I would allow), and even grabbed an egg & cracked it. I found it helpful to have a bunch of bowls so that we could pre-measure groups of ingredients, then she could just "dump" them in the mix. I showed hewr how we lined the ingredients up & then moved them to another spot when we'd finished with them. She really liked sniffing the spices. I did the dropping of the dough on the cookies sheets and the baking while she played, but she helped clean up -- she was especially good at bowl licking. She was SO proud of herself when we made plates of cookies for everyone.

                                  Please do try it with your granddaughter!! Next time I might make a quick bread of some sort.

                          2. Sounds like a lovely kid. And better behaved at a Chinese restaurant than my own mother.