Since we got home from dinner last night I’ve been umming and aahing as to whether I should write a post about our experience at Papachino’s in Fourways.

One small part inside my head to me just let it go; another part, maybe the more passive aggressive bit said do it! Name and shame. But that’s not the purpose of this post. Nor was my post on the Spur restaurant at Peter Place a while back.

I’m certainly not the consumer watchdog on supposedly child friendly places but I am aware of my feelings and how I’m left with either a warm fuzzy or a cold prickly after leaving somewhere. And so I write this.

I go to Serendipity often. Not because of the overpriced food or for the lack of wi-fi. I go there because Emma loves it and as long as she’s happy, I’m happy. Emma, along with the majority of the kiddies there, loves Thabani. Come Thursday she’s already asking if we’re going to see him on the weekend. He is engaged and engaging with the children in his care. His behaviour is always appropriate if a child hurts him or herself and he encourages the children to include each other.

No other child friendly restaurant offers the same care that Serendipity does, though they all advertise the services of child minders.

Last night we thought we’d quickly pop out to Papachino’s. it’s close by, the food’s okay and a few weeks back Emma had ‘made’ friends there and she was hoping to see them again. The management staff are over the top friendly. The waiting staff are okay but what leaves a lot to be desired are the two child minders on duty. Regardless of how many kids there are, there are always only two and they look like they’ve ended up on the playground by default. It’s as if they were the worst staff of the week and as punishment are now stuck with the kids.

There were a few instances that got me irritated. One enough for me to say something, the second one I wasn’t aware of (fortunately for everyone involved) and the third instance I made the decision to not say anything.

Just after we got there a couple arrived with a little boy with Down’s Syndrome. I assumed they were regulars because they got a table inside, took the little boy outside to the play area and handed him over to one of the child minders. I have no experience with children with special needs. Not enough to ‘read’ their expressions or understand their body language so I can’t comment on what this little boy was feeling or thinking. But I can read an adult’s expression and I’m able to recognize annoyance, irritation and impatience. And this child minder (I use the term loosely) was displaying every one of the signs.

She would yank him by his arm and roll her eyes. If he walked ahead of her, she would pull him back and put him up on the slides, which he didn’t seem to like. There was no interaction with him, she just pulled and pushed him between the play equipment. There wasn’t anything gentle about the way she was handling him and I got annoyed. At one point I said to her that she should just let him play. Her response was that he is playing. I then said that I didn’t like the way she was treating him and with that she grabbed him and took behind the jungle gyms, away from where I was standing.

I wanted to go speak to the couple he had arrived with but felt it wasn’t my place. I don’t know the dynamics. Perhaps they’re regulars and have discussed with the child minders how they need to ‘manage’ this little boy. The last thing I felt like doing was spoiling a couple’s evening because I had misread a situation.

The bit where I would have ‘stripped my moer’ is when a group of kids were laughing at Emma. She had messed cold drink on her top and had taken it off. Anyone who knows my child knows she’s a bit of a nudist and usually ends up running around in her panties, much to my horror. If you know Emma you also know she has a bit of a tummy. And these kids were laughing at that. That’s one thing.

But when an adult laughs along I have a problem. A big one. And when it’s the very same child minder then hell hath no fury like a mom. Fortunately I wasn’t there at the time and Mark dealt with it. Wisely (or not) he only told me about it when we were in the car. He also mentioned that Emma was sad but was soon her happy self. But I worry what those moments mean to her and how they will affect her.

The last instance, though not as bad but as annoying, was when Ben was crawling around on the artificial grass. The play area had quietened down and we put him there to move around a bit. Mark and I were both close by and so was one of the child minders. Sweeping. She swept around Ben, in front of him, behind him. I swear if he wasn’t moving she would have probably swept him into the dustpan. Like I say it wasn’t a big issue but it was another sign of their complete lack of interest in the kids. The children, like the dirt, were an inconvenience and if they could be swept away, all the better.

Restaurant owners please do not advertise your establishment as ‘child friendly’ unless you have staff, child minders in particular, that actually like children and want to be there. A plastic jungle gym and rocking horses does not a kiddy friendly place make.

BTW this was ‘written’ on my iPhone so please forgive any typos


11 thoughts on “‘Child Friendly’ Restaurants

  1. I whole heartily agree. there are several places that I simply will not go to any more because of the “childminders”. And what I believe is that the owners fail to recognize that if the child is not happy neither is mom and dad – and we will let other people.

  2. Name and Shame my friend, you are helping tons of us who have kids. In my mind, there's nothing worse than a BAD childminder. I would've blown a fuse, but then again, I'm crazy like that.

  3. The only place I have been impressed with is Bambanani, I have never been to Serendipity. But, yes you are 100% correct, if you call yourself child friendy you should have decent child minders.

  4. We mostly go to places in Durban but I will happily name and shame on my blog if the service or childminders are bad. Thanks for the info and I will not be going there with my child next time I am in JHB. Posts like this really help other parents.

  5. It think it's important that we as Mom's are open about our bad experiences at so called child friendly places. I would like to take Kade to Serendipity now that he's older – we went when he was a baby and I found them not really “baby” friendly (was in a huge group of approx 25 new moms tho so that might have been part of the issue).

    I love Secret Garden at Norscot Manor for the venue (they do not have child minders but also don't advertise as such). Pappachino's Clearwater is also excellent (their childminders are AWESOME)


  6. Love Norscot Manor too and like you say there are no child minders, so there are no expectations from parents

    Let me know when you're popping into Serendipity

    BTW there's also Panetone's which is a great little restaurant near Zoo Lake with a play area and minders

  7. We have never been inside a Papachino's but we tried to, once. First impression really do count and our first encounter with the franchise was one that put us off for, well, the rest of our parenting life.

    On the other hand, we really do love Bambanani 🙂

  8. Here in Durban, I have not come across many child friendly restaurants that have child minders as part of the deal. This is only in my experience, not saying that it is the case. Maybe we go to the wrong places! There are some children’s venues that have childminders during the day. I went to one which markets itself as a party venue etc. (Name escapes me now) Firstly, it annoys me when the kids can go around corners out of your sight, whether they have a minder or not, especially as in this case, they could go around to the front of the house where the gate was, and nobody was particularly paying attention as to whether the gate was open or closed. The minder could only be in one place, at the back, or at the front. I won’t be going there again.

    I have come to the conclusion that most restaurants that advertise themselves as ‘child friendly’ actually mean that they allow children in, not that they provide any kind of service geared towards kids. Especially recognisable by the lack of changing facilities!

  9. That's just terrible Melinda. They should not make themselves out to be “child friendly” and then treat children like that.

    We have a local Spur that also has a non-descript person leaning against the wall that portends to be a child minder. I'd rather mind my own kids, thank you very much.

    Hugs to Emma.

  10. There's those parents that always take responsibility for their child / ren and we choose a table as close to the play area as possible. This way we can see Emma and she knows where we are.

    But the fact that the way this little boy was being treated was rough and unnecessary and the parents / couple who were with him sat inside the restaurant, out of sight of what was going on. I also might be reading far too much into it but this particular 'child minder' seemed to be keeping him away from the parents' table too

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