Is it Possible to Enjoy Eating Out with a Toddler?
FAMILY DAYS OUT:
In a word, yes – providing you’re prepared.
Expecting your toddler to sit still while you enjoy a leisurely lunch is unrealistic, but that shouldn’t mean that you are relegated to eating at home until he or she is older. A few additions to your handbag, some perseverance and positivity and you’ll be enjoying a sociable meal with your toddler in no time!
Make sure you bring plenty of colouring
Don’t rely on the restaurant to provide these – many don’t and even the ones that do might be slow to bring them to your table or not have enough pencils to go round or entertain your child sufficiently. A new colouring book or one purely for these occasions which has the novelty factor, will provide novel stimulation – but even some blank sheets of paper can be fun too.
Have some back up activities ready
Bring a few other treasures your child is likely to get time out of, such as little toy figures, cars, stacking blocks, a sticker book, etc. Dole them out one at a time as needed, so that there is always something new to keep your child’s attention. Many parents find some kid-friendly apps on a phone or tablet can be a great last-resort once the handbag treasures have been exhausted.
Ask for your child’s meal to be served straightaway
If need be, you can order it before you start to read your own menu so that the kitchen prepares it early enough. Then, when your child is nearly finished, put in an order for his or her dessert so that’s being enjoyed while you eat your main course.
“Expecting your toddler to sit still is unrealistic, but that shouldn’t mean that you are relegated to eating at home until he is older”
If you’re not happy with the food selection from the kids’ menu, order a meal for yourself that you know they’d enjoy and then order an extra side or two and share your plate with them. Some restaurants also offer the option of getting a half portion from the adult menu, which means you have far more choice to pick from – and often a healthier option than the ‘chicken nuggets and chips’ which seems a staple kids’ menu offering.
Eat at the right time
If you can, schedule a restaurant visit for after a trip to the playground or other physical activity. They’ll be hungry and have expended plenty of energy. The flipside of this is to avoid them being too tired, as that can lead to worse behaviour.
Keep pressure to a minimum
Don’t put yourself under added pressure by bringing them to fancy restaurants – neither of you will enjoy yourself. Opt for family-friendly places where possible. The staff can be more tolerant and accommodating, and you won’t feel worried about what everyone else thinks. Good options are Italian restaurants (plenty of spaghetti dishes, pizza and other kid-friendly options) and gastro pubs, where you might get a nice plate of bangers and mash or a hearty “baby bowl” if your child is still eating mashed-up food.
If disaster strikes…
If things go pear-shaped, try taking you little one out for a wander while you wait for you food to be served or between courses. The fresh air will help to calm both you and your child – then, when you return, the wait time will have reduced somewhat and you can try again.
Is eating out with your kids a challenge? What is the main problem with taking your kids to a restaurant – menu options, waiting times, staff attitudes? Leave a comment below to let us know