Taking a toddler out to a restaurant can seem daunting. Tantrums, messes, and loud voices can quickly turn an evening out into a stressful experience.
However, with some planning and patience, dining out with your little one can be pleasant for the whole family. Follow these tips to make your next restaurant trip with your toddler a success.
Choose the Right Restaurant
If this is your first time taking a toddler out, say, for example, you have just started fostering in Wolverhampton, opt for family-friendly establishments with quick service, high chairs, kids’ menus, and crayons or colouring sheets to occupy them. Cafés, fast casual eateries, and less formal restaurants tend to be ideal for toddlers. Check if there is enough space between tables so you won’t feel crammed or receive annoyed glances when your toddler shrieks.
Time It Right
Save nicer restaurants for babysitters and plan your outing when your toddler is least likely to melt down. After naps and before common cranky times like late afternoons or evenings often work best. You want your child alert but not overly tired or hungry when you arrive to minimise fussy behaviour.
Pack the Essentials
Come equipped with a small bag containing toddler necessities. Bring a few small toys or books to keep them occupied during waits. Keep healthy snacks on hand to fill up a little tummy and avoid major hunger tantrums. Bring baby wipes, plastic bibs, and extra utensils to swiftly address spills. Having distractions and clean-up tools ready will make all the difference.
Ask for Quick Service
Politely request being seated right away and having your order taken quickly. The shorter the wait times for seating, food, and the bill, the better chance you have of keeping your toddler content. Kids have little patience for restaurant delays, so trying to speed things along prevents meltdowns during tedious down times.
Order Toddler Favourites
Stick to foods you know your toddler enjoys since trying unfamiliar items often backfires. Things like cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, yoghurt, French fries, chicken fingers, mashed potatoes, and fruit make excellent choices. Getting items you can share also lets you offer bites from your plate when their food inevitably gets flung to the floor!
Beware the Roasted Veg!
Roast veg might pass muster at home, but the oven-baked sticks of carrot, parsnip, squash and the like will probably earn suspicious inspection before being heaved overboard. Better to omit than have projectiles to pickle other patrons.
Have toys on hand that don’t make excessive noise but can keep your toddler happily occupied, like colouring books and crayons, stickers, reading books, trading cards, or magnetic travel games. Engaging their little minds minimises fidgety behaviour and restless meltdowns. New small items also can capture their interest and extend their patience.
Have Reasonable Expectations
Know that despite your best efforts, things won’t be perfect. There will likely be messes, some shrieking, food flung on the floor, and many trips to wash little hands. As long as your child isn’t having an epic meltdown disturbing others, a little toddler behaviour is to be expected and tolerated. Relax your standards so you can still enjoy dining out as a family.
The key is planning activities, ordering quickly, and having ample toddler supplies on hand. With reasonable expectations, you truly can have a reasonably pleasurable meal out with your toddler in tow. The extra work is worth it to keep family outings possible while your kids are little.