Monday, 28 August 2017
Tips for eating out with a toddler
Having enjoyed (and endured!) many meals out with toddlers and small children, I thought that I'd share a few tips for eating out with young children!
The most important thing to consider when planning a meal out is timing - both for your toddler and for other diners. You want your toddler to be in a good mood, so going when they are due for a nap is not the best idea! You want them to be hungry, but not too hungry. You also need to think about the people that will be in the restaurant at the same time as you - it's best if you can to choose a quieter time so that if your toddler does start playing up you won't cause too much of a disturbance. We've always found late afternoon to be the best time - usually around 5pm - before it gets too busy.
You also need to think about the best place to go. Ease of access is important, especially if you have a pushchair. You don't want too many steps or somewhere without much space to store it. It's also best to choose somewhere family friendly that will have nappy changing facilities and highchairs. If it's somewhere that doesn't have highchairs, a booster seat (affiliate link) is a really good idea as it will fit firmly to most seats and keeps your toddler secure and safe.
Talking of highchairs, a pack of wipes is always a good idea, especially if you think your child may eat food directly off the tray. It's best to give it a quick wipe over before you sit down! Wipes are also good for a clean up afterwards if you have a particularly messy child, both for the toddler and the surrounding areas.
All young children have varied appetites, so you need to decide whether your child will want their own meal or whether they can share yours. We've found that restaurants are always happy to provide an extra plate and let them pick at yours. If you have a very fussy child you might want to take a few bits of your own food. This is a bit of a controversial topic as some restaurants might not be happy with you bringing your own food along, but I think that as long as you are buying full adult meals and drinks and just bring along a few snacky bits then it isn't a problem. You can always call beforehand to check if you are worried. I wouldn't turn up with a cool box full of food though!
When ordering food from the menu for your child, it's a good idea to bring along your own toddler sized cutlery, and perhaps even a plastic plate or bowl. We've always taken our own drinks bottles along as well for children that aren't yet old enough to drink from an open cup, and don't be afraid to ask for a straw if that makes it easier for your child to drink. Bibs are always good too, we've always had the most success with long sleeved bibs. And don't forget a spare plastic bag to pop the dirty bib in when you've finished!
You'll need something to keep your toddler entertained while you are waiting for food to arrive and for after they have finished - in my experience a toddler will finish with their food very quickly and will have to wait for you to finish! Colouring pens and paper along with stickers are always good, I used to keep a little pack in the change bag of bits that only came out when we were in a restaurant so they remained new and interesting. Small toys are good as long as they don't have lots of tiny parts that can be lost. I always had a car or two with me, and a few Duplo blocks can entertain for a while too. Tablets and phones are great for entertaining little ones, although we tried to save them for emergencies otherwise they lose their effect!
Finally, don't order anything for yourself that will take too long to eat, and don't expect to be able to spend too long savouring your dish, the toddler will be finished long before you are and doesn't always have the patience to let you finish in your own time!
I hope that these tips were helpful! Below are some links to products that we've found useful when dining out with toddlers (affiliate links).