Eating out with children in France

Tips for successfully eating out in France with the kids.

Eating out in a foreign country can always be tricky as a family, especially when English is not widely spoken and you can't always be sure what is on the menu.

Plus, thanks to that book, France has a reputation for producing perfect children when it comes to eating in a restaurant.

The image of French children at lunch are kids who will sit still, eat everything offered to them, and keep quiet through the whole thing. Letting their parents engage in meaningful conversation. As a result us Brits feel even more pressure when eating out in France as a family.

But fear not, it is not as bad as your think and our guide will give you the confidence to tackle those menus and enjoy eating out as a family in France.

It's a myth that French children always behave when eating out

Let's start with that book. It's not a bad book as parenting manuels go but when it comes to how French children behave in a is total BS

Yes, while eating out in France I have seen the perfect French children. But I have also seen the perfect English children back home in the UK, and the perfect American children in the US.

I've seen them and you've seen them. But let's face it they are not our kids. Or, the majority of kids in any of these countries.

Just recently on a French break we witnessed this myth being shattered.

The worst case being in a lovely little créperie in Falais. The boy was around seven or eight and really flipped out complaining to his Mother, Father and Grandmother that he didn't want to be there. He was loud, screaming and even kicking out.

It is one of the worst tantrums I've seen and much worse than our two have managed (so far!). I felt really, really sorry for those parents but lets face it. Myth well and truly busted.

There is more than chicken nuggets on the menu

One thing that might put you off venturing out to local restaurants is an unfortunate lack of choice for children. While they do all provide a children’s menu (menu enfant) it is very often limited to ham or chicken nuggets with chips.

So while you get to indulge in the Plat du Jour (meal of the day) with an entree and dessert you feel bad your kids can only have the same thing - every day.

However, we discovered that there was more flexibility on offer than shown on the menu and if you ask the waiter they will often serve a plat du jour with two plates to allow you to split it between two young children. If your kids are older and approaching or in double digits, then go straight for the plat du jour for them anyway.

Or, simply order a main and ask for it to be a small portion (Petit) and point to the children. For example Travelbetter Girl wanted Pasta Carbonara (French style) and they were happy to rustle her up a portion.

Another family favourite for us is to visit a créperie. While the kids haven't taken to Galettes (Savoury buckwheat pancake) as much as we do there are plenty of sweet pancakes with a variety of fillings for them to enjoy.

We understand the value of a balanced diet but you are on holiday and there are two other meals in the day to pack them full of veg and fruit.

Be prepared for a long lunch

The French treat meal times with respect and the table is pretty much yours over lunch and they will be in no rush to get you out. This is great for adults so that you can enjoy your food and have a chat.

But this isn't always great for little ones so it is worth carrying some handy colouring items to allow for some drawing time, or maybe a useful app on your smart phone such as the CBeebies app to keep them entertained.

Just turn the volume down to avoid annoying other tables.

Key phrases to help when eating out with children in France

The following key phrases can be useful when eating out in France with kids:

  • Menu Enfant - Childrens menu
  • Plat du Jour - Dish of the day, this is usually a tasty but basic main meal prepared in bulk and provides good value for money.
  • Plat du Jour avec deux assiettes pour les enfants si vous plait - Plat du jour with two plates for the children please (and point to each child)

If all else fails...

McDonalds is prevently in France and they now include the computerized ordering system where you can choose your language making it nice and easy.

But please try the local restaurants as they have fantastic food on offer and are lot more family friendly than their reputation would sometimes suggest.

In conclusion

French food deserves it reputation for flavour and variety.

But French restaurants don't deserve their reputation for being family unfriendly and French kids don't deserve the reputation for being perfect.

So don't be afraid on your French holiday and simply follow our advice and enjoy great family meals.

Useful items to help you eat out with children in France

Crayola Pipsqueaks

We have a set of these for both Travelbetter Girl and Boy to keep them happy drawing inbetween courses.

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Lonely Planet French Dictionary

A good phrase book will include sections on food and provide help in navigating the restaurant menus.

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