Tips and Tricks On Eating Out With A Toddler

The other night we decided to go on a little family outing to one of our favorite restaurants, Chilis! Gosh, we love that place! Their 2 for $20 menu is our favorite! The moment we were seated and put Laila in her high chair, she started literally freaking out though! Now, this is very unusual. She is normally pretty chill and goes with the flow when it comes to eating out.  But this time, what was supposed to be a nice dinner out, turned into a pretty rough experience. Luckily, my husband and I tag teamed taking her for walks outside so we didn’t disrupt others around us and finally once our food came, all was well for about ten minutes as she enjoyed her mac n cheese… which was heavenly!

After this experience, I had to do some research! As a mom, we are constantly learning, aren’t we?! I decided I would ask several experienced women who have children of all ages, how they have dealt and continue to deal with taking toddlers out to eat. I absolutely loved their ideas so much, that I had to share them with you today!

Thank you to each of them, I have come up with a list of 8 Tips and Tricks on Eating Out With A Toddler. I am sure many of you already do some of these, but hopefully there is one or two that can help you on your next family adventure of eating out!

Tips and Tricks on Eating Out with a Toddler

1. KID FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS: This was the most popular answer. Make sure you go to kid friendly restaurants that offer crayons and a coloring page. It is also nice to be in this kind of environment, that way the child isn’t forced to be too quiet either. With kid friendly environments, they will be less noticeable and disruptive if it is loud and other distractions are around.

2. TALK TO THEM BEFORE: Some babies are too young for this – but once they are old enough to understand, put them on your lap in the car and remind them about how to behave in a restaurant. The only way they learn how to eat out, is to teach them. Let them know that once they go inside, they need to be quiet and sit down. Bribing isn’t always best for everyone, but maybe tell them if they sit in their seat and eat their dinner, they can have dessert or go to the park afterwards.

3. BRING SMALL TOYS AND BOOKS: Pack a little bag or slip some toys and books in your purse. If they start getting fussy, bring a toy or book out one at a time. It is helpful if it is a toy they haven’t played or seen for a while, so it is new to them. If needed, read the book to them and look at pictures.

4. ASK THE WAITER TO BRING THEIR FOOD FIRST: This has been so helpful in our experiences! Right when you sit down, order your baby’s food and ask them to bring it out as soon as possible. This helps so much with your child’s short attention span at the restaurant. By the time they are done coloring, their food is out and ready!

5. BRING SNACKS: You would think this is counterintuitive as you are taking your child out to dinner to eat, but it is so helpful to have fishy crackers or something light for them to snack on while waiting for their food. Remember, you are just trying to keep them busy for as long as possible. Normally, meltdowns and messes come when they get bored.

6. PLAY GAMES: I don’t mean bring a monopoly board game, but play quiet games as a family as you sit around the table. A perfect example is I SPY! You know the old fashion game, “I SPY something RED!” and the children will guess what you are “spying” on. The answer could be ketchup or the waiters shirt! Games like these aren’t only going to keep them behaving, but can be really fun too!

7. GO FOR A WALK OUTSIDE: It is always a good idea to give them a little break. If they need to get out, let them. Take them outside for a little walk to get their wiggles out. This will help them not disrupt the people around them and will help them be happier and ready to eat once their meal is ready.

8. KIDS WILL BE KIDS: The last, but possibly most important, is to remember that they are children. They are going to want to have fun. They are going to have some wiggles and most likely are going to make a pretty big mess. They need a lot of attention and distractions are key. “Let them be little, ’cause they’re only that way for a while” – Billy Dean.

Let them be little

The funniest thing about asking these moms what their tips were on eating out was that the majority of them said, “DON’T TAKE THEM OUT! Order Take Out!” It made me laugh! Having a toddler in a restaurant can be a lot of work, but with these helpful tips, hopefully your next dining out experience will go a little smoother. Just remember tip Number 8. Kids will be kids and that is okay! Enjoy this age now… they grow up TOO quickly!

Is this helpful? Don’t forget to share! –

21 Comments on Tips and Tricks On Eating Out With A Toddler

  1. Ridley Fitzgerald
    July 27, 2017 at 5:21 pm (9 months ago)

    Eating out with kids can be a nightmare. My wife and I took our two young kids out to eat just a few weeks ago, and left with potato splatters on us. Next time we go out, I’ll be sure to order their food first, and have it brought out as soon as possible! Anything to keep our kids happy.

  2. Jen
    March 22, 2016 at 3:44 pm (2 years ago)

    Thank you for this article! I really enjoyed it. I have a 7 year old step daughter and a 14 month old son. She is a dream to take out and my son used to be too. Now he’s a little more to handle during an outing and I am grateful for these tips. As a waitress and a mother, I love waiting on families with small children. But to be honest, and not to sound greedy, there is nothing worse for me than giving great service, going back to the table to clear it (I usually tell parents with small children, please don’t worry about the mess, it really is my job to clean it.) and not getting a decent tip.

  3. Esther
    March 13, 2015 at 2:17 pm (3 years ago)

    I bring several busy bags with different activities and toys in them. I also don’t put my toddler in the high chair immediately so that he won’t get bored fast. I put him in my lap and we play until the food arrives and then I talk to him and explain that he needs to sit in his “own special” chair to eat. Thanks for tips!

  4. Dannellys rosario
    April 21, 2014 at 7:10 pm (4 years ago)

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing! Sometimes you can overly prepare and they can still give you a meltdown It’s happened to me but you just have to remind yourself that they are kids and don’t be hard on yourself 🙂

    • Danielle Davis
      April 21, 2014 at 9:49 pm (4 years ago)

      SO SO true! Kids will be kids that is FOR SURE! 🙂

  5. Crystal
    April 18, 2014 at 2:58 am (4 years ago)

    Love these tips Danielle! It actually makes me consider taking the kids out to eat this weekend… or maybe not… 🙂

    • Danielle Davis
      April 25, 2014 at 11:28 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you Crystal! It is such a crazy thing. Who would have thought that a simple dinner at Applebees could be so insane lol. Thanks for commenting!

  6. katherine
    April 17, 2014 at 6:34 pm (4 years ago)

    These are some awesome tips for anyone with kids!

    • Danielle Davis
      April 25, 2014 at 11:29 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you Katherine! I hope that these tips bring at least one family some help to control the chaos.

  7. Michelle F.
    April 17, 2014 at 5:36 am (4 years ago)

    Those are some great tips! I have a 22 month old so I can totally relate. I agree with bringing little toys. That how I keep my little one busy.

    • Danielle Davis
      April 25, 2014 at 11:30 pm (4 years ago)

      Bringing toys is seriously a life saver sometimes. Thanks for commenting!

  8. Tara
    April 17, 2014 at 3:46 am (4 years ago)

    We never had issues until we had baby #3 (who will be 6 next week). He was a SCREAMER. We tried everything with him and there was a long time where we just didn’t go out. I totally agree with going for a noisy kid friendly restaurant 🙂 That way you don’t feel like the oddball 🙂

    • Danielle Davis
      April 17, 2014 at 4:21 am (4 years ago)

      You must have some amazing kids if you didn’t have a hard time until number three! That is seriously awesome!! Angel children 🙂

  9. Maggie C
    April 17, 2014 at 1:19 am (4 years ago)

    That’s why I try to pick restaurants where screamy toddlers are pretty much a norm when with the kids. I pick quieter places on the rare occasion it’s just the adults.

    • Danielle Davis
      April 17, 2014 at 4:22 am (4 years ago)

      YES!! Such a great tip!! That way they blend in with the crowd! 🙂

  10. Danielle
    April 16, 2014 at 11:47 pm (4 years ago)

    We’ve always had great luck with taking our kids out to restaurants. The one thing I try to be aware of is if it’s close to naptime or bedtime. Because things can quickly escalate from there if they’re tired. I usually plan dinner out right after afternoon naps.

    • Danielle Davis
      April 17, 2014 at 4:23 am (4 years ago)

      I love that tip! Stick with the same schedule. I actually think that may have been why Laila had a hard time this past weekend. She was super tired and teething!

  11. Fabulous Perks
    April 16, 2014 at 11:07 pm (4 years ago)

    I learned the hard way with my little one. He is 10 months old now.

    • Danielle Davis
      April 25, 2014 at 11:37 pm (4 years ago)

      I am sorry you had to learn the hard way. Do you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share?

  12. Jennifer
    April 16, 2014 at 9:06 pm (4 years ago)

    These are some great tips! Unfortunately, #4 doesn’t work for us, but I know it’s commonly used (and works!). Instead, if we have our daughters’ food come before ours, they chow down and are ready to get up and play/walk by the time our food comes. Instead I bring little snacks (like recommended in one of your other points) and give them the snacks slowly while we wait for our food. At least then I get to eat my food for a little while – or, you know, until they eat 2 bites and proclaim to be “all done”!

    • Danielle Davis
      April 25, 2014 at 11:34 pm (4 years ago)

      Jennifer, I totally know what you mean. We have had a hit and miss with asking the waiter to bring our daughters food out first. My husband always says that the more she cries the smaller the tip we give is lol. Thank you for commenting and best of luck next time you’re out and about.


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