Once we have children, everything changes. The TV shows suddenly turn to cartoons, our 10 hour nights turn into 6 hours of interrupted sleep, and dinner time becomes a three ring circus. And one thing that seems to throw most people for a loop is eating out once their children hit toddler age. But though kids undoubtedly change our lives, they shouldn’t control it, nor should they stop you from going out to your favorite restaurants. Because let’s face it — those eggs Benedict taste so much better when you’re not the one making them.
Children are adaptable and are capable of so much, and with a little guidance, they can learn to dine out peacefully. So if you’re worried about the temper tantrums and the water cup flying around and all the crazy things that your toddler is capable of doing in a public setting, know that there are ways to turn your little one into a seasonal diner.
Here are 5 tips to eat out with your toddler, (almost) without drama.
1. Practice dining as soon as possible. When we had our daughter, I knew I wanted for us all to have dinner as a family every single night. And so we did, from the time that she was able to sit up in a Bumbo. We tried to find ways to include her without making it all about her. It wasn’t ever perfect, quiet, or long, but it was consistent. Because she was used to sitting down at the table at home every night, when we would take her out to eat it was no different. And now that she is a toddler, our dining experiences at restaurants remain very enjoyable.
2. Be realistic. No matter how “well behaved” a toddler is, they are still a toddler. They still have more energy, less impulse control, and shorter attention spans than we do. My little girl generally eats what we give her, and she doesn’t need us to entertain her the entire meal. But she still has the occasional temper tantrum — of course, she does; she’s two years old. So remember that though you can teach your little one to sit at a table and not throw a fork in the air, you shouldn’t expect him or her to sit through a five-course meal.
3. Be consistent. Think about what your goals are, and then be super consistent with enforcing the standards to reach them. If you want them to eat in their seat, always make them sit in their seat until everyone is finished eating. If you want to be able to eat your meal and talk to someone other than your child, find ways to incorporate them into the meal and conversation (as much as you can) , but treat them just like another person at the table. It takes time and consistency, but they can and they will learn that it isn’t all about them.
4. Be prepared. This goes with being realistic. Since we know they have short attention spans, we need to offer them ways to deal with that. Have a couple of toys or activities that are only for eating out. Then when they do get to use them, it is a special treat. Give them one at a time to prolong the interest, and decrease the mess. Here are a few recommendations: Colorform stickers, Color Wonder Books, Manhattan Toy Company Baby Cubes, Soft Books.
5. Be patient. With them, and be patient with yourself. They will definitely sense your energy, and if you are anxious or stressed, they will probably play off of that, which can then create a tense meal time. Relax, enjoy the time with your family, and remember that they are learning. Toddlers need guidance and understanding along the way, but they will rise to the occasion if given the opportunity.
Photo by Samantha Brooks Photography.
Nicole George is a mom of two, living just outside the bustling city of Atlanta. She love to write, style, travel, and bring simplicity to life. You can find out more about her on by Nicole George, Living the Simple Life.