Parents’ Survival Guide For Dining with Toddlers

When you have a child, there’s a lot of things that change.  One of those things, is mealtime.  Remember the days when you and your significant other went out to eat at a restaurant and sat there for hours just hanging out enjoying the food?  Well if you have a young one, that romantic meal might look a little bit different.

table in vintage restaurant

But don’t worry, just because you have a toddler joining you for dinner it’s not the end of the world…or maybe it is…just kidding. Obviously, things are a little different, but if you take a little time to prepare, you can have an enjoyable meal and not get too many death glares from the tables next to you.

So, if you’re thinking about going out to eat on a Saturday night, read this parent survival guide before you go out:

#1: Put Some Thought into Where You’re Eating

I love going out for a nice steak dinner especially to Ruth’s Chris or orton’s or one of these fancy chains (and if you’re wondering wow how can you afford that as a blogger.don’t worry business is good :))).  Anyway, fancy steakhouses aren’t really in my rotation too much anymore and neither are Chinese restaurants, or seafood restaurants or Hibachi restaurants just to name a few.  And not because I stopped liking them, but more because I try to pick places where my son and wife (she’s the one who doesn’t like seafood) like to eat.

So, before we go out, we think about the options that would interest him, whether it’s on the Kids menu or the regular menu.  Since he’s a pretty picky eater now, it narrows the options down quite a bit.  Basically, if they don’t have pizza, pasta, or mac and cheese on the menu, it could be a long night, or we look for a different place.

restaurant people woman hotel

Now you may say to yourself, but hey, I’m the adult, we’ll pick where I want to go, and my kid can eat whatever is on the menu.  Well how would you feel if you got dragged to a restaurant where you didn’t like any of the food.  I know the answer to that one, I dragged my wife to my favorite BBQ place, and she doesn’t like BBQ so you can imagine how that ended.

The morale of the story here is, pick a restaurant where you can find at least something on the menu that your kid will like.

#2: Be Prepared

If you have a young child, the odds are, they aren’t going to just twiddle their thumbs through an hour or two-hour meal.  So, it’s important to bring stuff to keep them entertained.  Coloring books, a couple of toys, or a few small games.

Don’t assume that the restaurant is going to give them crayons and a fun kids menu to color on.  I will give a shout out to Chilis for that back when I was a kid.  They had a fun kids’ menu to color on with fun word searches.  I’m not sure if I want to shout out their food because it’s hit or miss, and you really must be in the mood for it.

toddle wearing gray button collared shirt with curly hair

It’s also a good idea to bring some snacks for them while you’re waiting for your food.  This is especially important if they’re not going to be eating an appetizer.  The better snacks you bring, I will guarantee you the more well behaved they’ll be.  Keep that in mind.

#3: Stay Engaged Throughout the Meal

I’m going to be the bearer of bad news but here it is.  When you go out to eat with your toddler and significant other, you are no longer in date night mode.  You can’t just sit there and gaze into each other’s eyes and talk about how fun it would be to live in Hawaii forever.  There’s a little guy next to you that should be getting a decent amount of attention.

It may be tempting but sticking your phone in their face and having them watch YouTube while you eat isn’t the best idea.  They need to feel a part of the dining experience, not just a third wheel.  Make sure you are constantly talking to them about what is happening at the restaurant.

If you brought some games or toys, make sure you’re playing with them and staying engaged throughout the meal, even when your food comes.

restaurant vacation hotel summer

Dining out with a toddler can be daunting at first, but once you get in the groove of it, you’ll find it fun.  There are going to be times where they are in a bad mood and don’t want to sit.  When that happens, remember, it’s okay to take a walk and settle them down.  Your fellow diners will probably appreciate you removing the screaming toddler from the area as well.

If you have any tips for dining out with toddlers that you want to share, leave them in the comments section below.

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