Making Dining Out with Toddlers Easier: 5 Helpful Tips

Everything changes when we have kids. All of a sudden, the TV shows are cartoons. Our 10 hour nights become 6 hours interrupted sleep. And dinner becomes a circus. Eating out is a big deal for most parents once their toddlers reach the age of two. Though children can certainly change your life, they should not control it or stop you from eating at your favorite restaurants. Let’s be honest — the eggs Benedict are so much better if you don’t make them.

With a little guidance and a lot of patience, children can be taught to dine in peace. If you are worried about your toddler’s temper tantrums, the flying water cup and other crazy behaviors in public settings, there are some ways to make them a season diner.

Here are five tips for dining out with your child (almost) drama-free.

  1. Practice eating as soon as you can. When I had my daughter, I wanted to have dinner with the family every night. We did this from the moment she could sit up in her Bumbo. We looked for ways to include her, without making everything about her. It was never quiet, perfect or long but it was always consistent. She was used to eating at the dinner table every night at home, so when we took her out for a meal it was not different. Even though she’s a toddler now, we still enjoy dining out.
  2. Realistic. Even if a child is “well-behaved”, they are still toddlers. They have more energy and less impulse control than us. She eats the food we serve her and doesn’t require us to keep her entertained throughout her meal. She still throws the occasional tantrum – she’s only two. Remember that even though you can teach them to sit down at a dining table and not to throw their forks in the air, they won’t be able to sit through five courses.
  3. Consistency is key. Be consistent. Think about your goals and enforce them consistently. You can always force them to sit down in their seats until everyone has finished eating. You can eat and converse with someone else while your child is eating. Find ways to include them in the conversation and meal (as much you can), and treat them like any other person at the table. They will eventually learn, with time and consistency.
  4. Be realistic. Realistic is also important. We need to give them options to cope with their short attention spans. You can have a few toys or games that you only use when eating out. When they finally get to play with them, that’s a real treat. To keep their interest and reduce the mess, give them one at a. Some suggestions: Colorform Stickers, Color Wonder Books by Manhattan Toy Company, Baby Cubes and Soft Books.
  5. Be patient. Be patient, both with them and yourself. Your energy will be felt by them, and they may react to your anxiety or stress. This can lead to a stressful meal. Relax and enjoy your time with family. Remember that they are still learning. Toddlers will need your guidance and understanding, but if you give them the chance they’ll rise to the occasion.