As a food lover I've always enjoyed going out to eat, I mean who wouldn't? But as a parent we don't get the opportunity to eat out as much as we used to when we were child free especially now with a toddler and a newborn in tow. However on the rare occasion that we do go out to a restaurant for lunch Amelia is much better behaved now than say a year ago. I used to dread taking her out to eat as we would have to rush and quickly escape if she had one of her meltdowns. However I think we have mastered eating out successfully and haven't had any issues for a while now and thats down to keeping her entertained at the table.
Pack a bag of goodies
A restaurant can be a boring place with nothing to do other than stabbing the table with forks. Many restaurants don't hand out activity packs so I always pack a little bag of things for her to do to keep her busy at the table until the food arrives. Always pack more than you think you'll need, sometimes food can be delayed and you wouldn't want to have run out of every possibility before the food arrives. I tend to pack some of Amelia's favourite books, some colouring books, her peppa pig toy phone, her leappad 3, a pot of play-doh, some flashcards, her magic scribbler, and favourite doll. I also pack some snacks incase of delays and if she doesn't eat the food then I know at least I can keep her quiet with some quavers or banana.
Flashcards are always a good time killer, getting your child to read out the cards, as well as repeating what you say. It's a great way to learn out of the home too. You can also then go onto items in the restaurant kind of like a game of eye spy. Although play-doh can be messy and I don't really like Amelia playing with it often at home I always carry a little pot of it when we go out as a last resort. She loves making balls and creating little buildings etc.
Amelia has become obsessed with this peppa pig toy phone. It's a great distraction and she loves talking to her friends and grandparents on it. It's great for role-play scenarios and she has become so much talkative since she's had it. We've had many of these mini magic scribblers over the past two years and this is by far her favourite. It's great for whipping out on the go and drawing objects for her to guess.
I don't really like Amelia sitting on the iPad when eating out but on holiday it became a lifesaver as it was the only thing that would keep her sitting in the highchair long enough for us to eat our dinner before she had a tantrum and wanted out. We tend to let her watch videos on our phone now but I do pack her LeapPad 3 just incase we run out of things to do.
Where to eat?
Choose a child-friendly restaurant, this way you won't feel as if everyone is watching you if your child decided to play up as the majority of people have their own kids to deal with. You can also take short walks with your toddler too which no one will mind or even notice. Child friendly restaurants are perfect if you're new to eating out with kids as they are usually loud enough to absorb any noise your kids will make and are casual dining. You may want to book a table in advance too to ensure you can get a high-chair available on the day.
Don't eat out close to nap time
It's never a good idea taking a tired toddler out to eat, you're just asking for a recipe for disaster! Plan around your child's regular sleep schedule. If their nap time is 11am aim to eat out once they've woken up, and if they typically nap around 2pm eat out early to ensure that they aren't fussy before hand. Same goes for bedtime aim to eat out early enough so you don't eat into their bedtime.
* Ask your waiter to bring out your kids meal before your main course is ready or with your starters if you have ordered any. This way you can ensure your child is happy before your dig in to your meal. It's also a good idea to bring along some snacks just incase the food does take a while. I tend to pack some breadsticks so she can nibble on whilst waiting.
* Don't dawdle, order as soon as you are seated and the waiter comes over. Don't expect them to sit through a 3 course meal, it's a good idea to order a starter that you can all share or have their meal brought out with your starter and then you can order their dessert whilst you are finishing off your main meal.
* Don't struggle on your own. Share the load between both parents or ask help from a family member if you are struggling. If your child requires constant attention take it in turns so one of you can eat whilst the other looks after your child.
* If you don't eat out often it's a good idea to treat eating out as a reward. Amelia gets excited when we eat now as we eat out less than we did before Harrison was born. Consider allowing your toddler to have something that's rare or not allowed to consume at home for example ice cream or chips perhaps. This way your child won't expect these items all the time and know that its a special privilege to eat out.
Lastly, have fun and don't stress! Your toddler will sense that you are stressed and only play up more. Ensure your child is happy and you will all have an enjoyable experience.
Do you have any tips to share to make eating out as stress-free as possible with a toddler?
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