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!
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.
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!
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