Even children who are normally well-behaved can feel stressed in the unfamiliar environment of a Chinese restaurant. Not only is the food dramatically different than anything they have tried before, their parents’ expectations of them are as well. While it can be unrealistic to expect patience on top of quiet, respectful behavior, parents can engage in several activities while waiting for the food to help pass the time.
Distraction is the Name of the Game
Going to a Chinese restaurant for the first time is a novelty for most children. This is something that parents can use to their advantage. For example, they can explain that chopsticks in China serve the same purpose as silverware in the United States. If this catches the child’s attention, mom or dad can teach them how to hold chopsticks the right way. Many kids are already familiar with how to hold a pencil, which is a great way to start the demonstration. Placing a rubber band at the top of the chopsticks makes them easier for kids to use.
Asking for a few fortune cookies before the food arrives is one time when it would be good to eat dessert first. Finding a message inside of their cookie is a special experience for kids, even if they don’t know how to read yet. Parents can read the fortune and use it to play a game of make-believe with their children. Placemats with Chinese zodiac signs on them provide another opportunity to pass time by reading the appropriate one for each member of the family.
Kid-Friendly Chinese Dishes
Children who aren’t used to hot or spicy food may be startled by a traditional Chinese dish. It is better to start with milder flavors to get them accustomed to different flavors and textures first. Eggs rolls and dumplings are easy to cut up and kids will enjoy the novelty of dunking them into sauce. They may not even notice they’re eating vegetables at all. For kids who normally like soup, they should enjoy the taste of egg drop or wonton soup. These both tend to be more colorful than regular soup, which can appeal to a child’s sense of novelty as well.
Lo mein or cold noodles in sesame sauce will be just like eating spaghetti for kids. Vegetables and chicken in a light sauce, called Mo Goo Gai Pain, is easy for children to chew and tasty as well. Parents may want to avoid sweet and sour dishes due to the high sugar content.
Some Etiquette Tips to Keep in Mind
It can be hard for adults to know proper etiquette in a Chinese restaurant, let alone children. Nevertheless, parents should make it a point to impart the following:
- Avoid placing chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice. This may remind the servers of burning incense for the dead and is considered bad manners.
- Use chopsticks to pick up food but not to spear it.
- Don’t use the chopsticks as drumsticks to make sounds that may annoy other diners.
- Plan to take some leftovers home or the host may assume the children are still hungry.
By taking children to Chinese restaurants regularly, it will soon become second nature and etiquette will barely register as a concern.