The Spaniards got it right, food is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to get a taste of a new culture (pun intended! Sorry lame sense of humour here). Raising globally minded kids will be infinitely more fun if you get to take them on food adventures out of their comfort zone. You start salivating at the thought of crispy samosas, whipped hummus or sashimi, but then remember you have to take the kids too ….how are you going to pull it off? If you are taking your children for their first time how do you make the most of the experience? What if you have picky eaters? While each child is unique, we have a few quick pointers to stack the odds in your favour for a fun family outing.Context is your best defense
Take the time to introduce your child to the country beforehand using fun facts from National Geographic Kids, Wikipedia or CIA World Factbook. Photo galleries like this one by James Mollison helps bring a country to life and help your child put a child’s face to a foreign culture. Taking the extra 30-45 minutes to give your kids context behind the food they will be eating will make it far more meaningful to them.Throw in language learning
Encourage your child to order their own meal (or for everyone). If they have been studying the language for a while, ask them to order and thank the waitstaff in that language. The key to making this work, is letting them know beforehand so they are mentally prepared rather than suddenly put on the spot. If there are two languages on the menu, ask the waitstaff to read it out loud for you and your family. 9 times out of 10, the waitstaff are more than happy to share this with customers who are genuinely interested in their culture.2-Bite Rule, Family Style
Warn the kids well in advance that it’s going to be a 2-bite rule for anything you order tonight. Let them know that Mom & Dad are sticking with this rule too, so if they catch you skipping out they can make sure you take 2 bites too. Let everyone choose out one dish and plan to share family style with everyone so you can avoid one child going hungry if they pick something they don’t love and you can each get a taste of the different flavours and dishes.1 step at a time
At many ethnic restaurants there will be a few dishes adapted for “North American tastebuds.” If you have a child who insists on ordering something familiar, do not fret, it’s already a great start. Try to order something similar that is slightly more authentic. A great example is a niece we took to Indian food for the first time. She really wanted to order a naan pizza they had on the kids menu, so we ordered that as well as naan with lentil dip. We encouraged her to share everything family style, and by the end of the meal she was polishing off the lentils and naan.Backup Snacks
Alright this is one of the emergency back up plans, grab a few granola bars or trail mixes to throw in your bag. Don’t let the kids see this! This is a tummy tamer to be used only after your child has drived at least 2 bites of each dish. In case they are still hungry, and you still want to enjoy the rest of your meal this is the chance to praise them for taking 2 bites and give them something familiar to finish off their meal.Order takeout ....for now
This is a great plan B for younger children or kids who may not have enjoyed their experience at the restaurant the first time and you want them to give it another shot. Encourage them to choose for everyone, this will make it more likely for them to take bites of the food.
With that, we give you permission to start daydrooling about yummy restuarants you can take the kids out to try. With a little patience and preparation, you will have your children excitedly eating and learning about new cultures and languages at the same time. Good luck and have fun!