Raising a Cultured Kid: Exciting Eateries for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Food wise, you may have the opportunity of a lifetime. Expose your children to different types of cuisine now, and they may just think this is the way it's supposed to be. Wait too long, and, oh well, you'll be fighting against the picky-eating syndrome for a long time to come. Here's why you should be adventurous now: Studies have shown that repeated introductions to different foods are key to developing children's taste buds. On average, it takes 10 times before some children will even try a new food, let alone enjoy it.

So it's well worth venturing out right now. Which brings us to the second benefit: Even if your kids don't take advantage of an expanded menu, you will. Let them have plain pasta while you ingest more refined items. Everyone will be happier. Of course, your kids will have to behave a little '- and that's a third benefit. There are lots of tricks to this eating-out thing, which we'll tip you off to, but fundamentally, you will need to work with your kids on eating in a public place, respecting other people's desires for a nice, quiet meal, not leaving a holy mess for the busboys to clear away and saying please and thank you when talking to waitpeople. So dining out also becomes manners school, and what, exactly, could be wrong with that?


Little food, lotsa action

You don't need a theme park interior for insta-foodie fun. Engaging to little eaters are restaurants with serious interactivity (e.g., picking out your own ingredients for a pizza or a Chinese dish) or small servings like tapas or dim sum. And any place where food is prepared in front of you is bound to be a nice distraction from the fact that these little guys are actually at a restaurant. Watching sushi chefs in action can keep a toddler occupied for a good 20 minutes at a time. And preschoolers might find table-side guacamole making at a Mexican restaurant pretty cool. Other favorites are open pizza ovens, hibachi grills at the table and food that comes out '50s style on conveyor belts.

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