Breaking news: dining out with toddlers can be fun! (If you follow our advice.)
You’re probably thinking the above statement can’t be real. Or that I, the author, mustn’t have a toddler of my own and so can’t imagine how difficult it is. When in fact I do. And a feisty one for sure.
After she entered her terrible twos, dining out with her became a nightmare (I’m not being a drama queen, trust me). Eventually, we started avoiding going for dinners all together. Bad idea – that is not how you solve this problem. After being told off by friends and family for hibernating at home, we decided to march forward and make a change.
The good news is that it can be done! You can have fun dining out with your toddler(s). The bad news is that it takes some practice. The first couple of times, you might be so caught up in managing your child that by the time you start eating yourself, your food is cold. Trust me, power through and you’ll find your own unique strategy to make sure your child is calm. Until you do, feel free to let the below tips inspire you.
Food comes first
When you’re with toddlers, the menu is important. Make sure wherever you dine out at has a seperate children’s menu. If your child finds something they love on the menu, they will eat it with less fuss and more excitement. I understand this limits your dining options, but hey, you’ll end up with a happier little eater.
Designated play area
Ideally, and I know this isn’t an option all the time, find a restaurant with a designated play area. These are far and few – but if you do find a play area, it will make the wait for the food a far quieter experience.
Create a bag of toys. This is the most crucial factor in having an enjoable time. You can forget your card at home but never, ever forget the bag of toys. Try to pack toys that your toddler hasen’t seen in a while, so the novelty factor keeps them entertained. Colouring books, crayons, play-dough and pop-up books are always good options to pack.
Order your child’s food when you order your own drinks. This perticular planning technique has big rewards. If their food arrives before yours, you can give them undivided attention when they eat. Once your toddler has eaten, you’re free to enjoy your own meal in peace.
Nap, nap and nap
This last one is difficult to manage but if you can, it will be worth it. Try to get your child to nap before you head out. A rested child will have a much better experience and hopefully avoid throwing tantrums.
Remember that whichever route you choose, each child is different. Don’t fret if your toddler is taking their time settling into being at a restaurant. Persevere and I promise you it’ll become child’s play.