Hey, friend! So, you’re looking for tips and tricks on going out to eat with toddlers and babies? Friend, let me tell you… You are brave. This parenting thing is hard in and of itself- but taking them into a public place where they are expected to be still and behave like adults is not for the faint of heart.
If you’re littles are anything like mine, going out to eat with toddlers and babies takes quite a bit of preparation. However, we as parents still need time to enjoy ourselves out in public!
I’m hoping after you read and look into using these tips, you’ll be considering going out to eat more often! Get comfy, and let’s get started!
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1. Practice Good Table Manners at Home
I promise you, you will not have as difficult of a time in restaurants if you take time out of your own dinner routine to practice table manners at home. You have to sit down to eat anyway, right? Use some of that time to practice sitting still and using indoor voices, and praising your child for doing so!
2. Bring Distractions!
As you know, going anywhere that expects kids to sit down and act like mini-adults requires ALL kinds of distractions. Some of my personal favorites include WaterWow books, Mess Free Magic Marker pages, and any kind of fidget toys.
Colors and coloring pages from the restaurant can also be a great distraction when going out to eat with toddlers. My husband blows crayons across the table towards my kids and they find it really entertaining! We have even let our kids chew on the straws from the restaurant when we have forgotten things to distract them with. Anything to keep them from screaming!
I’m not a huge fan of using tablets or phones to distract my kiddos in public, but if you are, that’s fine, too! Tablets like these are also an educational redirection.
3. Have them go potty before leaving home and/or before being seated
The last thing you’ll want to do is get up from your chair once you finally get settled in. If they’re potty-trained, have them go before you go to the restaurant. If the ride is over 30 minutes or so, have them go again when you get to the restaurant.
If they are still in diapers, I would change them before sitting down so there is less of a chance for the interruption of your meal with a fussy baby.
4. Bring a Belt in case of Broken High Chairs
Have you ever gotten to a restaurant and received a high chair with a broken belt? It’s the WORST. You don’t want to put your baby in that thing lest you turn away for 2 seconds to eat and they decide to become Harry Houdini and topple out.
That’s why you need a belt.
It attaches your kiddo to the seat, so you don’t have to keep an arm across them while you eat lest they try to climb out and run away. Any type of smaller belt would work as long as it fits around the child and the back of the seat. You could also get a harness belt like those already on high chairs like this one and just carry it with you, just in case.
5. Get a Corner Table if at all Possible
If all else fails and for whatever reason your little needs to stretch their legs, you have the ability to let them walk by the wall next to your table quietly and slowly. This way, they won’t disturb the other guests, and they can get some of their wiggles out safely before dinner.
There are several ways to make it into a fun distraction activity. You could have them practice being still and quiet by having them pretend to be a statue. Or you could have them do wall push-ups to get some energy out. Just don’t forget the hand sanitizer when they’re done!
6. Use your Toddler's Sippy Cup
I like taking my own kids’ sippy cups into a restaurant for 2 reasons. First, I like cups like these over straw and lid cups most places give you just because they are less likely to spill.
Second, if I already have a cup with something to drink in it, I spend less by not having to buy whatever drink my child would have ordered from the restaurant! That could potentially save you some serious money over time, depending on how often you go out to eat at restaurants with your kids.
7. Don't Forget Sanitizer Wipes/Sanitizer
Because restaurant floors are nasty. And when you go out to eat with toddlers, they have an insane ability to develop butter fingers and will drop just about anything they need onto the floor. Several times. Sometimes they even make a game out of it.
You could choose to either bring wipes, gel or spray. I’ve used all of the above, but I like the spray the most. It’s the easiest to apply to things as well as hands, and you can use a napkin from the restaurant to wipe things off with.
8. Order an Appetizer that your kiddo will eat OR bring pre-food snacks
The one thing you can count on when going out to eat with toddlers is that if you aren’t careful, they will get hangry, and fast.
If your budget allows, consider ordering an appetizer your kiddos will also enjoy. Salsa and chips for example have always been a hit with my toddlers. If your budget doesn’t allow, bring a bagged snack from home, like cereal or animal crackers to tie them over while they wait.
9. Use a Suction Cup Plate for their food
Plates with suction cups that can be stuck to the table are much less likely to be knocked off of the table and shattered like restaurant plates. Now the only food going into the floor will be what your kiddo throws there (I’ve been there too, friend). Which leads me to…
10. Bring Bibs (and maybe a spare change of clothes)
Because kids and food stains go together like macaroni and cheese. Pun definitely intended. I was gifted some wrap around bibs like these and I swore I would NEVER go back to the ones that barely covered the front of my child.
If they are eating something less messy, like peas and carrots or something, these silicone bibs would work well to catch the food that misses your little one’s mouth.
11. Invest in Tide-to-Go
Because let’s face it… Even if we wore all the bibs, when you are going out to eat with toddlers and babies, SOMEONE is going home with a stain on their clothes.
At least, that’s been my experience.
12. Check Toddler's Food with Temperature regulated utensils
13. Bring a designated "going out to eat with toddlers" Diaper Bag/Backpack
You have to carry all of these things with you somehow. I would not recommend carrying them in your purse or your regular diaper bag. I’m a diaper backpack mom, myself, but if you’re a diaper bag mama, that’s fine too.
We have a specific backpack for eating out with toddlers/going into public places like church where kids are required to sit. It has been super helpful to ONLY carry that bag when necessary and not fill our other diaper bag with all of these things when they would be unecessary elsewhere, like playing at the park.
One idea is that you could leave this one backpack somewhere you won’t forget like beside the door you leave out of when you plan outings. Another idea would be to leave it in the car in case of a spur of the moment, last minute eating out adventures.
14. Use Prayer, Good Vibes, Patience, etc. when going out to eat with toddlers
Because, tantrums. Both theirs and yours.
But seriously. Taking kids out to eat isn’t for the faint of heart. But the memories you can make can be so very worth it. Lastly, and most importantly…
15. Use Soft but Firm Voices When They Act Out, and Give Yourself and those Littles Grace
Anyone who has ever been a parent and isn’t a liar has had their children act up in public at some point in their lives. Those little ones have big feelings, and sometimes, they have difficulty managing those when they get hungry, bored, or tired.
Friend, love on those babies even during those times. Even when you want to scream and run through the restaurant like a maddened toddler yourself.
Offer yourselves and those sweet babies grace. Using a soft, but firm voice, let them know that although they are upset, screaming in a restaurant is not okay.
Some simple tips to help calm a child that needs it are:
- Taking them on a walk outside
- Walking them around the restaurant and letting them point to things they see (fish in fish tanks, cool lighting, toys in the gift shop if the restaurant has one, etc.)
- Offering to get them a special prize like dessert if they are able to take some breaths and find ways to calm down
- Or simply realizing that it may be time to put them in the car and get your food to go
Try not to worry about what others will think. If strangers start to stare and talk, let them. They aren’t raising those babies for you, and you’re doing a darn good job.
If you’re eating out with friends and this happens, I hope they are good friends that offer empathy and a raincheck. Those are your people as parents.
Going out to eat with toddlers can be a challenge, but just because you have young kiddos doesn’t mean that you have to give up your eating out social life! Hopefully these tips will help your next trip out to eat with young kids less like a walk through Jurassic park and more like a stroll down easy street. 🙂
Tell me, friend. what lengths have you gone to when you’re going out to eat with toddlers and babies? Are there any extra tips that maybe I forgot to add? Please, let me know in the comments- I would love to hear from you.
As always, it was so good to be with you today. I always enjoy the time you come and spend with me. Take care until we meet again, friend.