It is a situation that many of us find ourselves in. Dining out with a toddler. It begins with such promise. One excited child and parents envisioning the creation of long-lasting, happy memories. You know, the ones that are plastered all over social media? Here’s my gorgeous munchkin enjoying his first Spaghetti Bolognese, oh how the waitresses laughed at his mucky face and cheekiness #mycafebuddy. The reality can turn out to be the polar opposite and can simply be an unpleasant experience.
Often our family meals out turn into a continuous pacing of the restaurant, bribing our child with a steady stream of snacks to keep her quiet resulting in being too full up to eat. Then, whilst we gulp down our food, said child finishes off with her favourite game of dropping every item from the table onto the floor. Loudly. On repeat. Much to the delight of the other customers.
We have often found ourselves in the position of wolfing down our meals in record time and leaving the restaurant,t as if we have just surfaced from a warzone, cursing never to do it again. However, dining out with a toddler does not have to be stressful. Painful experiences can be avoided, and the key is preparation:
1. It’s all about the timing
Every parent knows that adding a tired toddler into any situation rarely results in a good one. Like us, they will be irrational and illogical. However, unlike us, they cannot regulate their moods. So, opt for a time where your toddler is well rested and that is also in line with their dinnertime.
2. Find a family friendly restaurant
Dining out at a fancy Michelin starred restaurant is probably not the best idea with a toddler. You are unlikely to enjoy your food, they probably won’t cater to a young child’s tastes, and other customers may not be as understanding. Research restaurants that welcome children and tend to have other family diners. Save the posh restaurants for some well-deserved grown-up time!
3. Come prepared
Let’s face it, most toddlers are not going to sit quietly at the table and wait patiently for a dinner whilst you and your partner chat away. The key is entertainment. Pack your bag with various toys and books to read together whilst you wait.
4. Order quickly
Don’t add to the time in the restaurant by deciding on your food at the table. Choose before you go and be ready to order when you sit down.
5. Choose a table wisely
Look for the table that is away from other customers and is less likely to disrupt others. Corner tables usually give you a bit more space. Most staff will gladly accommodate you if you explain your reasons for wanting a different table to the one given.
6. Take a break- sitting long periods not realistic
Toddlers are just not wired to sit for long periods of time and wait patiently for their dinner. Break up the scenery by taking a walk outside if you spot your child starting to get restless. It will also give you both a much-needed breather, if one is needed.
Dining out with a toddler needn’t be a difficult event but that is not to say that you can do all of the above and it still does not go smoothly. If so, relax and chalk it up to experience. There is always next time- or a Mcdonald’s drive thru!