Taking a toddler to a restaurant can scare even the most seasoned parent. And be afraid, you should. Toddlers are notoriously bad at being well mannered diners. Does this mean that you should never go out to eat. No.
Here are some tips that may make your experience out with a toddler a little more 'restaurant' like and a little less like taming wild beasts.
- Choose a restaurant that is family friendly. Hint: No linen table clothes. A restaurant that you would feel comfortable wearing shorts to, if you are comfortable wearing shorts! Loud and bright. No dim lighting, soft music, and for goodness sake no candles on the table! You have enough to worry about without adding flames to the equation. A good rule of thumb is whether you see other families with young children there.
- Go at a time when there isn't much of a wait or make a reservation if you can.
- Choose a place that puts food on the table right when you sit down, such as bread or chips. Have snacks for back up just in case! At home do you make them sit at a table when there is no food in front of them? Not likely.
- Bring your own cup in case they don't have the little ones with lids.
- Bring scissors. If they have kid cups with lids, you can cut the straws down. They never have the straws to match those little cups! Getting through dinner with out spills would be nice.
- Come already knowing what you want to order so the process moves more quickly. I am sure you don't expect your toddler to sit around for a long time at your dinning room table. Don't put unreasonable expectations on them in a restaurant.
- Bring a distraction. I bring a little bag with couple of small books, paper, crayons, and stickers. If there is some delay I can hopefully avoid a toddler meltdown and keep them in their chair longer.
- Seems obvious, but pay attention to them. Talk to them. Help them color their menus. Include them. If you are going out hoping for solid adult conversation, get a sitter. Try to see it from there perspective, they are taken to a place where they are expected to sit still, eat food that is different from home, and listen to adults talk. A restaurant isn't nearly as fun for them as it can be for you.
Enjoy not having to cook or do the dishes! But for a real restaurant experience, make sure you get a night out with a sitter!
This is what has worked for us.-And by 'worked,' I me we have survived a restaurant experience or two. What works for you?