Helpful Tips for Dining with Toddlers

By Brooke Drake, July 30, 2010, News

Now that my daughter has entered the toddler stage, going out to eat has proven to be much more challenging than before. Between her constant need to walk around and her messy finger foods, it makes the goal of getting her fed and keeping her occupied while enjoying our meal harder to achieve. So for those of you who are experiencing the same issues and are looking for some ideas, here are some helpful tips I found from an article called “Eating out with Toddlers: Tips for Family Fine Dining”.

Proper Preparation

  • Set reasonable expectations. Your child won’t be perfect, quiet, neat, and adventurous at first. Eating out is a skill—and as usual, practice makes perfect. The way to teach your little ones how to act in a restaurant is to take them to restaurants.
  • Choose appropriate restaurants. Moderately priced ethnic restaurants, trendy university hangouts, casual but elegant dining of all kinds—these are all good choices. Focus especially on ethnic restaurants—most cultures are less uptight about children. (Some cultures even appreciate them!)
  • Tote along a little kit of supplies (toys, food, coloring books). Stock your wallet with emergency stickers and bandages—not for injury, but for entertainment. Bring anything that your child enjoys that isn’t noisy, messy, or large.

Once at the Restaurant

  • Sit near the door if possible. If your child cries, take him outside immediately. Be firm with your child that he cannot reenter the restaurant until he calms down and is quiet.
  • Take a walk immediately after you order your food. This could be around the restaurant or outside.
  • Set limits about where your antsy toddler can toddle. Around your table is fine, but the aisle is off-limits, as are other people’s tables.
  • Drape and cover! You might want to carry a small plastic drop cloth for under baby’s chair, especially if you know that your chosen dining destination has nice rugs. Wait to shake until outside. Well outside.

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