Whoever thought having a decent meal with a busy toddler was easy was wrong. But the person who decided doing it in a busy restaurant was easier, you’re dead wrong. When Tate had turned just about 12-13 months restaurant eating was my biggest fear. The quiet tables, long wait times and restraining high chairs was easily enough to make this mama go mad. Then I realized I was going about it all wrong. I needed steps and tricks to make this thing work and it just wasn’t going to happen overnight.
Similar to when you tackle any task you need to first realize what you are trying to get. And for me, I’m trying to get a nice dinner with a quiet toddler. Not too much to ask right?
Here are my 5 top tips I use when restaurant dining with my kiddo:
- Company. As we know with all kiddos it’s never 100% what you get. Some days they wake up and they are absolute angels. Saying please and thank you, using their words instead of crying or just simply hugging you just because. Then theres other days, they spend the majority of the day mimicking their favorite movie, Tarzan, aka they’re straight savages. Screaming at the top of their lungs, all of a sudden they don’t know how to talk and oh look at that, they decided poop is better on walls then in their diapers. I say all this to say choose who you dine with carefully. We all have that friend who stares at us with embarrassment when our kid misbehaves in public. Yea, don’t take that friend to the restaurant. Instead take your understanding friend that gets sometimes kids will just be kids and theres nothing you can do about it. You’re going to try to keep your baby calm with these next few steps but choosing a good partner right here at this starting point makes things a little easier in the long run.
- Seating. When you go into the restaurant it’s probably best to NOT choose the seat right in the front or the one directly in the middle. We don’t want to steer away the incoming customers nor do we want to make it a terrible time for the majority of the restaurant by sitting right in the mix of things. Try asking for a table in the four corners of the restaurant. Those spots are typically less ideal spots for other eaters and it’s quiet. In these spots you can feel less embarrassed if your babe starts to cry and if they do need to get out and “stretch their little legs”, you can do so without chasing them away from other tables while they act as the restaurant greeter.
- Distractions and play. Now, I understand how a lot of mamas feel about this but if you follow me on Instagram, there are a lot of times you’ll watch my stories and Tate is completely engrossed in his ipad. So let me just say this clearly. I am a iPad mama. I don’t believe in letting perfectly good resources go to waste. However, this is not saying this works for everyone. It just works for me and mine. Tate is one of the smartest little boys I know and we hear that from teachers, other parents and friends too. So no, the iPad isn’t ruining his brain or delaying his development. Plus we watch a lot of learning/ singing songs. But, I digress. Waiting for your food as an adult is hard. Every plate that walks by makes your stomach growls a little louder each time. So imagine as a little person when your hungry and bored. It’s hard! This is why distractions are so important. For me distractions usually start out with the coloring sheets they give all the little ones in establishments. But being as though my little guy is only 17 months (#where’dmybabygo) coloring is sometimes not the best for us. He easily gets over the activity and crayons soon become darts at the person across the table. Our next activity is usually pulling out the “restaurant toolkit”. You can download what I have in mine HERE. Whatever will keep him quiet the longest is what goes first and sometimes, they all have to come out and make an appearance. Whatever works for you and your little one make sure to always have it on hand in any waiting period especially at a restaurant.
- Meal choice. Now this one is one me and Tater tot are still trying to figure out. If you remember when Tate first started eating food, I was making his food from scratch and it was a guessing game of what he would eat and what he wouldn’t. Well, nowadays we have made a full circle and have returned to this fun stage of life. One day he loves chicken and it’s all he wants to eat and the next he hates it and will have a full on crying fit if I place it in front of him. Refer to number one for my toddler by day, savage by night reference. When choosing an item off the kids menu I not only look for things that are healthy choices, but I choose an item I know my baby boy will eat and enjoy. Thus, being another activity that will keep him busy and quiet for the next hour and if we’re lucky, the remainder of the meal.
- Relaxxxx. I know I use this one a lot of times with my tips but the fact is, it’s the best advice I can give you for every walk of motherhood. Staying calm is the way to get through most situations in life, but especially as a mama. No matter if it’s breastfeeding, beach trips or the restaurant. Remaining calm helps you not only see the problem differently but allows you to get through the situation without any added stress. Enjoy the moment with your little one. After all, it’s like a date with your mini best friend.
Every stage of life with your little one will always come with it’s own trials and tribulations. Ours right now happen to be perfecting restaurant visits. And whether we’re at Applebees, Olive Garden or Ruth’s Chris, I want to be sure that Tate’s behavior is as on point as a 1 year olds can get. Using these steps we’re on our way to yet another conquered stage.
Take care of you too mama,
Download my top 5 toddler restaurant kid must-haves HERE!