It is no secret that toddlers are not fun to take out to eat. In fact, many parents avoid taking their one- and two-year-old’s out to dinner, and for good reason. There’s nothing like having a toddler melt down in the middle of a restaurant.
While there is no way to guarantee you will have a stress free meal, there are a number of ways that you can make dining out with your toddler a more enjoyable experience, both for you and your toddler.
When you have young children, only take your family to a family-friendly restaurant. There are definitely restaurants that welcome families more than others. It is much better to hear the children chattering away at the next table then having the young couple on a date at the table next to you staring at you as you try to get your children to behave.
When you are looking for a family friendly restaurant, look for a restaurant where the tables are not really close together, and make sure they have high chairs and booster seats to accommodate your children. Some restaurants are more prepared than others to seat young children.
Make sure the restaurant offers a children’s menu. Not only is the food on the children’s menu inexpensive, it is also more likely to be food that your toddler will eat. If your toddler is very picky about what he or she eats, either feed him before you go out and let him snack at the restaurant, or bring a snack for him to eat at the restaurant while you eat. Bringing a snack is also a good idea if your child is hungry and you will have to wait very long for your meal to be served.
Bring activities for your toddler to do at the restaurant. Many family-friendly restaurants have children’s menus that your child can color on. You can always bring a coloring book and crayons from home too.
Toddlers have a hard time sitting in one place for very long. It is a lot to ask to have them sit through ordering, waiting for the meal to be served, and then eating. After you have ordered your meal, take your toddler for a walk, either around the inside or outside of the building. Many family restaurants offer antiques or other interesting displays that are made just for this purpose.
Don’t go out to dinner during the busiest times of the day. When restaurants are busy, you will have to wait longer for your food, and the server may be less patient with you than if there are less customers to serve. Be easy on the restaurant staff, and they will be much more likely to do what they can to accommodate the needs of your family. Your toddler also won’t have to sit and wait as long. If your waiter goes out of his or her way to meet your needs, make sure to leave them a generous tip.
Try to plan your outing around your child’s best time of the day. It probably isn’t a very good idea to go during your toddler’s nap time or to keep your toddler up at night too late so that you can go out to eat. Lack of sleep is a sure recipe for a toddler melt down.
Honestly, it isn’t much fun to take a toddler out to eat. That doesn’t mean that a parent should suffer, however, and stay at home until their child grows out of their terrible two’s. With a little planning ahead of time and a plan of action at the restaurant, it is possible to take a toddler out to dinner and even enjoy the meal.