Going out to eat is a good developmental milestone for both you and your toddler. For you, it’s a nice change of scenery. For your toddler, it’s a chance to try different foods and practice their dining skills.
Here are nine tips on how to eat out with a toddler to help the meal go off without a hitch
1. Set realistic expectations
You may need to roll with spills, dropped napkins, or a quick-paced meal. Don’t expect too much from your little one at this point. They’re still learning the ropes.
2. Choose the right restaurant
A family-friendly place is a safer pick than your favorite candlelit spot. Family-friendly doesn’t have to mean fast food. Plenty of sit-down restaurants welcome kids with high chairs, a kid’s menu, or crayons and paper placemats with activities.
3. Time the meal
Pick a time that’s in sync with your toddler’s schedule. An evening reservation won’t work for a child who goes to bed thirty minutes later. They’ll be cranky by the time the appetizers arrive. If you choose a place that doesn’t take reservations, go early so you won’t have to wait for a table.
4. Pack toddler tools
The meal may go more smoothly if you bring along your toddler’s own cup. Try to bring one with a lid. You also might want to pack a bib and child-size utensils.
5. Bring entertainment
Give your child something to keep them preoccupied while waiting for your order. A quiet toy or a new board book should do the trick.
6. Clear the dinner table of dangers
Curious hands love to grab. Be sure to move candles, condiments, knives, and glasses of water when you sit down just to be safe.
7. Mix familiar toddler foods with new ones
Some toddlers are adventurous eaters, but most are picky. Yours might be wary of new foods. If you want your toddler to try new flavors, order something you know your kiddo likes along with something new. Or they can always try a bite from your plate.
8. Make smart portion choices
An adult-size portion is too big for a toddler. It’s also a welcome invitation for your little one to make a mess. If child-size options aren’t available, order an appetizer or share part of your meal with your hungry tot.
9. Keep the meal short and sweet
Your toddler might do just fine the whole time. However, they might not. To be safe, you can always order drinks, entrées, and desserts all at once. Or ask for the check when ordering, to minimize the wait. That way you can pay and go if your toddler runs out of patience.
As your child gets older, more leisurely meals will be in your future. Eating out with kids gets easier as time goes on. In the meantime, pat yourself on the back and high five your toddler. You’ve just enjoyed some quality time eating out with your toddler!