Many times, for parents with toddlers, it's just easier to eat at home ALL the time, so just in case food is hurled at someone, it's at a family member who will understand. If you have children aged between 2-5, eating time can be quite hectic. It probably involves whining about whatever is on the plate, playing with food, spitting it out or a complete refusal to eat. However, dining outside is possible and can also be a lot of fun with kids. Here are a few tips on how you can enjoy being at a restaurant with toddlers.
- Pick the right restaurant. This is the most important tip. You can do everything right but if your child does not like the ambiance of the restaurant, chances are, all your prepping will be in vain. Choose a restaurant that has kid menus, kids booster seats, is family friendly and possibly has a play area. Don't choose a restaurant that is too formal. Opt for buffet meals that kids can pick whatever they like – this may not be the time to insist on a half-plate serving of vegetables. A burger once in a while doesn't hurt.
- Let your kids nap before you go. A cranky toddler is not a situation you want to deal with in public. Even if it means having a lunch half an hour later than you normally would, having your toddler nap before taking them outside really helps.
- Carry their favorite toy to keep them busy. Okay, your food has been served and your toddler has gobbled down theirs within 15 minutes and they are ready to go back to the car. Carry a few of their favorite toys to keep them busy so you don't have to leave the restaurant immediately. I can assure you that your food will not go down well with screams of “I wanna go home” served with it.
- Let them know your expectations beforehand. Toddlers are pretty smart and can understand if you tell them what you expect of them when you go out to eat. If they behave themselves at the restaurant, reward them for it so that they know that you were happy with their behavior. Of course, these expectations should be realistic. You don't expect a 3-year-old to suddenly know how to eat with a fork and knife when they have been eating with their hands at home.
- Go early or pack a snack. It seems counterproductive to carry a snack with you when you are going out to eat, but it can really come in handy. If there are any delays in getting your food after you have ordered, chances are, your toddler won't take it quite as well as you. Hunger often translates to crankiness which can manifest itself in kicking and screaming. Pack a light snack that your toddler can nibble on before their food comes. If not, make sure you get to the restaurant early enough before everyone else checks in.