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NEW YORK Sitting at the kids’ table during a dinner party might be a universal family joke, but Nibble & Squeak aims to make the idea more fun than funny.
On November 18, the Brooklyn-based company teamed up with Wolf & Friends, an online shop that specializes in items for children with developmental needs, to organize and host an inclusive, sensory-friendly pre-Thanksgiving dining event at Ai Fiori in New York.
Called “Tykesgiving,” the ticketed dinner featured special needs-friendly details, including a designated sensory break room and an activity zone, in an effort to create a welcoming restaurant experience for the guests and their children.
“Tykesgiving has been going on for two years now, and the idea for it was wrapped up in the origin of Nibble & Squeak. Before we were parents, my husband and I spent almost 10 years living as ex-pats in London, and it became an annual tradition to invite nearly everyone we knew over to our apartment to celebrate American Thanksgiving,” explained Melissa Elders, founder of Nibble & Squeak.
“I wanted to recreate that magical ‘friendsgiving’ feel all year round, which is part of the reason why I started Nibble & Squeak when I moved back to the U.S. with my young family—to keep on gathering around the table for big special meals. And, from the start, I knew I wanted to make a family-friendly, inclusive, social Thanksgiving feast happen too.”
The kid-friendly dining club hosts food events for babies, toddlers, and young children, along with their caretakers, in more than 10 cities across the globe. Upcoming meals include the group’s first event in Philadelphia at Wm. Mulherin’s Sons on December 9 and a dinner at Art Smith’s Southern Art in Atlanta in January. In addition to the high-end cuisine, the company also provides changing tables, high chairs, and stroller access at the venues to make the experience as accommodating as possible for parents and caretakers.
For Tykesgiving, the company designed its first “visual menu,” allowing the kids to follow along and cross out the dishes as they arrived. Two of the restaurant's private dining rooms were transformed into “sensory rooms” with soft rocking chairs, gel tiles, and an inflatable canoe. Plus, goodie bags at each child's seat included earmuffs (children with autism or an auditory processing disorder often have a hard time with noise) and toys like stretchy lizards, fuzzy frogs, putty, small drawing kits, and stickers for tableside entertainment.
As for the menu, Nibble & Squeak requested family-style service from the Ai Fiori staff to create a communal feeling and to make ordering run smoothly, as well as gluten- and dairy-free alternatives.
Tickets for adults were priced from $156 to $220, depending on drink selection, and $40 for children over age nine and free for those eight and younger. Pricing for other Nibble & Squeak events starts in the $50 range.