EATING AT RESTAURANTS WITH A TODDLER CAN BE TOTAL CHAOS. BUT WITH A LITTLE PREPARATION AND AWARENESS OF YOUR CHILD’S BEHAVIOR, IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE!
As parents, eating at restaurants with a toddler seems like a dream that will never be achieved without a little drama. Even though you may be going through terrible two’s with your little one, that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and treat yourself to a night out instead of cooking dinner for the family – again. Use these tips to make eating out at restaurants with your toddler a little easier.
Depending on your child’s eating habits, the timing of when you order food is really important to acknowledge. If your child is a slow eater and often throws fits when hungry, order food as soon as you sit down at the table. Possibly before you even order yourself a beverage. This will ensure the food hits the table quickly to avoid a hungry toddler and will give enough time for a slow eater to finish so you aren’t rushing them when it’s time to go.
Alternatively, if your child is a fast eater, you’ll want to order your food at the same time. That way they don’t finish way before you, getting fussy to leave before the rest of the family is done eating. The last thing you want is a fussy toddler on your hands while you’re trying to eat your meal.
In both scenarios, it’s wise to keep a few small snacks on you to keep them occupied until their food comes. If your child is a slow eater, but is very hungry, they could throw a tantrum before the food hits the table. For the fast eating toddler, the snacks can entertain them before and after their meal to keep them at bay for the entire experience. Keep a bag of nuts or crackers in their stroller and you’re good to go!
KEEPING THEM ENTERTAINMENT
A lot of restaurants have kids menus with coloring and crayons, but don’t assume and rely on it for your child’s entertainment. Bring along crayons of your own in case the restaurant has a shortage. It may be beneficial to have some coloring books as well, or a pack-and-play if your child requires full-time entertainment.
Playing games like “ISPY,” patty-cake, or age-appropriate riddles can be a good alternative to hands-on activities as well. Stickers are fun too, just be sure they don’t stick them to the tables or any of the restaurants belongings. Keeping your child’s attention on one activity will avoid them getting upset or distracted by their surroundings.
LIMITED SCREEN TIME
Screen time can be beneficial at times with great age-appropriate games for children, but we encourage parents to try alternatives before turning to electronics. Screen time is increasing exponentially as parents look to iPads and cell phones for child entertainment. In a study done by CNN, they found that,”For children under the age of 2, daily screen time went from 1.32 hours in 1997 to 3.05 hours in 2014.”
If you already limit your child’s screen time at home, it may be helpful to have a strict “ONLY at restaurants” rule when it comes to iPads and cell phone usage for kids. That way they look forward to eating out because of the entertainment it entails, and will likely maintain good behavior. If your child is used to screen time all the time, this method will only make them more fussy when it’s not available or for some reason isn’t doing the trick.
Try to stay on their usual eating schedule. If your family eats at 6pm when at home, make sure you’re eating around the same time when going out as well. Regularly taking your child out to restaurants will also help their behavior, as it will become a little less strange the more they experience it. If your toddler is typically a picky eater, check out the menu before you go to the restaurant so you know what to order.
Along with snacks and games, having the right materials to make the meal go smoothly are important as well. Bibs, place mats, face wipes, etc. are all crucial for a seamless night out. If your child is not yet potty trained, be sure to pack extra diapers to avoid a messy situation.