I love going out to new restaurants. I didn’t want this to change once a baby joined our family. Going out to eat with a baby is fairly easy, but a toddler is another story! Are you thinking about going to a restaurant with your toddler? I’ve learned some tips that have helped us have more successful experiences over time that I want to share with you!
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First, plan what time you are going
Really think about the timing for going to a restaurant with your toddler. Will your toddler already be super hungry? Is it almost nap time? If so, I would say to consider another time. I find the best time to go to a restaurant is shortly after a wake up time, so breakfast in the morning or lunch/early dinner after nap. Also, keep in mind if it is a time the restaurant is going to be busy. It’s hard for kids to have to sit and wait to sit and then to sit and wait again for their food.
Pick Your Restaurant Carefully
What restaurant are you going to? Is it a restaurant that other families go to? For the most successful experience, I definitely recommend a family friendly restaurant. It doesn’t have to be catered specifically to kids, but at least welcoming. If they have a kid’s menu and offer crayons, that’s usually a good sign. Think about the noise level too. If it is a quiet restaurant, most likely your toddler will end up being disruptive. I gravitate towards restaurants that are already on the noisier side.
Where will you sit
If possible, try to get ideal seating. This may be different for everyone. For me, my toddler refuses to sit in a high chair so we always sit at booths when we go out. My ideal spot is an end booth, so I can put her on the side where there won’t be other people if she decides to turn around and check out what’s going on behind her. I also like sitting near a window or near the kitchen, as those can offer distractions. My toddler is a people watcher!
Bringing snacks to a restaurant may seem silly, but snacks can help prevent tantrums. If your toddler is like mine, then she will be expecting to eat as soon as she is sitting at the table. I bring a container like this one filled with simple finger foods, like dry cereal, and offer a few pieces at a time. I like to pick a snack that is easy to clean up too, since a lot of it is going to end up on the floor.
It is helpful to bring a simple toy or a couple of books to keep your toddler busy while waiting for the food. I don’t bring toys that make noise since my toddler makes plenty on her own. Instead we will bring something like a favorite doll or crayons. One restaurant I went to brought out crayons in a travel soap container. I thought this was a great idea and have started doing this myself with a container just like this one here. I’ve been to a couple of restaurants that have offered uncooked dough for playing, which my toddler thought was a lot of fun!
Go out and Do it!
Going to a restaurant with your toddler can be stressful at times. If it is something you want to do, then you just need to do it. There may be times when it just isn’t going to work, but don’t let it stop you from trying again!
For example, one Friday night I decided it would be fun to go out to dinner right from picking our daughter up at daycare. She was tired and wanted to be home. When mama ordered a glass of wine that the little munchkin clearly could not have, a total meltdown ensued. We ended up taking our meal to go, and we realized that it isn’t a good idea for us to go out to a restaurant right from daycare pickup.
Life changes so much when you have children, but it is possible to do some of the things you enjoyed doing before kids. Going to a restaurant with your toddler can happen and it can even be fun – at least sometimes!
Do you have any tips for dining out with children? Leave them below!
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