Family meals are a great time to bond with. But with children around, the responsibility becomes double. There are many things you need to prepare and deal with while taking a toddler to a restaurant. Also, taking a toddler for dinner is tricky because you never know what to expect.
Your kid could be the best eater and well trained in self-feeding. But when it comes to restaurants all it requires is planning, patience, and of course you need to consider your fellow eaters too. The very hope of every mother taking their child out for dining is to have a peaceful dinner without the child creating a mess and becoming wild.
If you are pretty much in a similar situation of wanting to dine out yet wonder about a toddler misbehaving in a restaurant, we are here to help you!
When Can Toddlers Eat Restaurant Food?
Toddlers enjoying the treat of eating restaurant food depends on their age. Ages 2-4 may be the most difficult time to dine with children for they become ready to choose what they need.
For kids between 1-2 years, you have control of what they eat. This of course depends upon the age of the toddler. If your baby has just started solids, you may need to carry something from home as a backup. Else, it’s time they hunt what they want.
Related Reading: 15 Most Common Unhealthy Foods For Toddlers
People around might be having fun, yet you could be more worried about how to keep a 1-year-old busy at a restaurant rather than choosing food for him. Relax! For babies around 1-2 years, you still have control of what they eat.
For toddlers around age 3, it is appropriate to allow the child to choose their restaurant meal. Give them 2-3 simple options from the menu to choose from. In this way, they are not overwhelmed with choices, yet they have options to pick from.
Around the age of 4, your child will be able to read the menu card. So, you should allow them to choose their food.
Remember, what the child should eat depends upon how frequently the family dines out. If you dine out rarely, say like 1 or 2 times a month, making healthy choices over food isn’t recommended.
Top 12 Tips For Taking Toddler To A Restaurant
There are plenty of times when you might need – or want – to be in a restaurant with your toddler. But when you have little kids or toddlers it could be easy to give up the thought of eating outside. Too much hassle. Too much of a mess. Too much uncertainty and yes, all eyes on your table!
For many parents, the fear of the child throwing tantrums or disturbing others at a restaurant or a toddler misbehaving in a restaurant makes them stay at home. Cooking at home or deliveries at doorsteps become a routine. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are of course many kid-friendly restaurants too.
Related Reading: 12 Social Skills Activities For Toddlers
Here are some tips for eating out with your children that will help keep it a fun experience for everyone.
1. Choose the right restaurant
Some restaurants are too fancy and are meant for adults. Taking your children to those kinds and expecting them to stay good is not a good idea. Restaurants with dim light, soft music, sports bars, or intimate couples are not ideal for your child. It is only a signal that you are heading towards failure.
While taking a toddler to a restaurant lookout for restaurants that offer a kid-friendly atmosphere. Check if they provide high chairs and a kid’s menu. These are signs that they are used to dealing with kids.
2. Don’t allow the electronic devices
Electrical devices are not allowed at a dining table and the kid must very well be aware of this right from the beginning. Getting quality family time has been a yearning for many owing to their busy work schedule. Moreover, when you pay money for it, you should enjoy every minute of it.
As parents, avoid using phones before toddlers so they don’t get obsessed with it and demand more screen time in the restaurant. Restaurants are good places to teach your kids how to stay without electrical gadgets and how to converse with people. Also, one baby restaurant hack is to carry play items like play-doh which could keep them engaged.
Related Reading: Smartphones-12 Reasons To Keep Your Children Away From Them
3. Don’t encourage child menu
When you are taking a toddler to a restaurant and offering them a different food from what you eat, they develop a thought that adult food is yucky. This opinion stays even after they grow, where they won’t be open to trying out new/different foods or end up avoiding veggies.
If your child is small, just offer them what you eat on a small plate. Order some extra sides to make the child’s stomach full. Paying for one full-size meal and splitting it at the same price as kids’ meals is a better option.
4. Order the veggies early
Kids often skip the veggies as they get excited seeing a variety of dishes on their plates. By ordering veggies as a starter, kids end up eating them first because they could be hungry. Also, it reduces the child’s wait time which has fewer chances of the child turning cranky.
5. Keep them busy
Things could turn messy while taking a toddler to a restaurant if they start feeling bored. You could be wondering how to keep a 1-year-old busy at the restaurant. It is very simple. Bring something with you to keep your kids busy until the meal comes. Make sure not to encourage it with a cell phone.
A few ideas…
- Paper & Crayons / Colored pencils
- Coloring Pages
- Quiet toys
Related Reading: 21 Indoor Activities For Babies And Toddlers (Age 0m-2 years)
6. Be respectful of other diners
If your child(ren) starts misbehaving in a restaurant, move out of the place by showing respect to those dining there. A crying baby could be a distraction for many and they don’t want to hear a couple arguing over the cry baby — for everyone pays money to spend quality time.
All it needs is to change the child’s mood. If it’s an older child, tell them such behavior is inappropriate. In the case of a toddler, try taking the child out to a lobby or a diaper change room temporarily. If the baby continues to cry, it’s time you leave the place.
7. Practice at home
Table manners start at home. You must realize you cannot avoid dining out just because of one bad experience. Keep your expectations realistic for they are still toddlers. Let your child sit in the high chair and relax for a while. Once they do, reward them.
Every child is different. So don’t expect them to act like grown adults. But yes, you should always reward and recognize them for their improvements!
Related Reading: 12 Tips to Help You Prepare Your Child for Preschool
8. Time it well
Timing is what matters while taking a toddler to a restaurant. You know your child’s routine better. So, make a plan at the convenience of the child and their schedule rather than when you are free.
A hungry child is a happy child in a restaurant provided the meals are ready on time. Don’t pull yourself into failure by taking the toddler during their nap time or when they show signs of fatigue or disinterest. Would you even dare to try taking a 16-month-old for dinner at 9 pm?
9. Think about seating
When you take a toddler to a restaurant make sure to opt for a corner table rather than choosing the middle one. In this way, the kids will be out of the other diner’s way and cause less trouble. You would also have some private space and not be a center of attraction.
Related Reading: The Top 10 Most Common Parenting Mistakes
10. Toddler restaurant kit
A toddler restaurant kit is a lifesaver especially if you are planning to dine out at the last minute. The restaurant kit can be filled with a lot of goodies that you think will help keep your children occupied. If the child is a little old, allow them to pack their bags with their favorites.
When it comes to parenting, everyone travels a different path. So, plan the bag with goodies you think will save you.
11. Provide breaks and distractions
You need to be pragmatic and accept the fact that it’s hard for children to sit in a place for a very long time. So, when you feel the wait time is taking longer, take your child outside for a walk. In the case of a toddler, move the stroller to a different view and distract the child from getting bored.
You can also distract them with fish tanks or aquariums or a fountain if any, in the restaurants. Toddlers would be awestruck seeing it.
12. Create a backup
While taking a toddler to a restaurant it is important to carry a bag of non-perishable foods. At times things don’t go as planned. When your child is not ok or not willing to eat any of the restaurant offered food, it is better to offer him the food of his/her choice. You would at least be happy that your child ate something finally.
Related Reading: 10 Ways To Have A Safe Diwali With Kids This Year
Kids can be unruly at times and can make dinner time at restaurants unpleasant. That doesn’t mean it is the end of all. But how to teach kids to behave in a restaurant and knowing how to tackle them remains a concern for many. Like many things in parenting, taking a toddler to a restaurant requires patience and practice.
There is nothing to feel embarrassed about if your child shouts or yells in a restaurant for many or almost all parents have gone through the situation. Lastly, be a role model and eat healthy yourself. Behave how you want your child to be. When trying to teach good eating habits, try to set the best example possible.