Bring them along
Eating out with toddlers can be a daunting experience for parents. From unpredictable tantrums to picky eating habits, there are numerous challenges to overcome. Despite that, we used to bring our babies along to all sorts of restaurants and eateries from very early on. For us, it was the best way to merge our social life with our family life when we hung out with friends and their babies at similar ages as our kids. It is also best to get the kids used to dining out with you from a young age before they become toddlers. However, I do remember the kind of preparation and planning that entailed when we brought our little ones out for meals. After a few practices, with a little bit of planning and some handy tips, you can turn your dining experience into an enjoyable and stress-free outing. Let’s look at some of the most common challenges parents face when eating out with toddlers and the kind of practical solutions we can use to ensure a pleasant mealtime for everyone.
Location, Location, Location!
One of the first challenges parents encounter when eating out with toddlers is finding a suitable restaurant. Not all eateries can accommodate the needs of young children, making it essential to choose a location that is both kid-friendly and enjoyable for adults. I think it is important to understand if the restaurant has a basic setup for kids, namely highchairs. It doesn’t need to be a deal breaker if the restaurant doesn’t have them, but you just need to know ahead of time to go prepared by bringing your own booster seat.
What’s on the menu?
Toddlers can be notoriously picky eaters, which can make ordering meals a challenge. Additionally, some restaurants may not offer a variety of healthy and appealing options for young children. It is therefore best to look up the restaurant’s menu ahead of time and see if you can find something that your child might like. If not, try to ask if the restaurants can make small modifications to the dishes, they usually are more than happy to make an effort to please their littlest guests! As backup, bring along some healthy snacks, like vegetable sticks or small crackers just in case.
Timing is everything
Babies and toddlers have short attention spans and may become restless if they have to wait too long for their meals and potentially disrupting the overall dining experience for everyone. Try to select restaurants that are more efficient or avoid peak dining hours so that you can get served faster. When our daughter was around 1 year old, we would occupy her time by putting small breadcrumbs from the breadbasket of the restaurant in front of her. She would use her tiny fingers to try to pick up the crumbs one at a time and eat them! That could get her occupied for almost the entire meal, and great to train her motor skills too!
Make them feel at home
Public tantrums and outbursts can be a major concern for parents dining out with toddlers. Young children may become overwhelmed in unfamiliar environments, leading to unpredictable behavior. Having something familiar with them can help them feel more at ease, for example, their own portable booster seat or their own set of dining utensils tend to help. Getting them entertained is also an important way to help them pass the time in the restaurant. It is too easy to pull out our own smartphones or a tablet to keep them occupied with the screen. But maybe you can consider bringing a few quiet toys or activities instead while waiting for their meal, after all, it is a family outing and it is the perfect time to play a few games with the kids and get them engaged with you at the dinner table.
Navigating the challenges of eating out with toddlers may be intimidating, but with experience and planning, you will soon find it easy to create a positive dining experience for the whole family. Your kids will get used to the routine of going to a restaurant and learn how to behave when dining in one and things will get much easier as they grow!Bon Appetit and Stay Sparky!