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Eating out with Toddlers – My Top Tips

Now Indy’s 21 months old, long gone are the days where he will happily sit or sleep in a restaurant for a long leisurely lunch or dinner. He’s such a ball of energy that he has a very short time limit for being contained in a high chair! My husband and I are huge foodies and love going out to try different foods and new restaurants, and we didn’t really want this to change after having a child seeing as we don’t get out for as many date nights anymore! While we appreciate Indy won’t look forward to going to a new restaurant as much as us, we still want him to be comfortable and to make it enjoyable. It’s become quite a tactical experience, and some meals go better than others, but this is what we do to make it as smooth sailing as possible:

Choose the right time
As all things with a toddler, timing is key! There is no point taking an overtired toddler for a nice meal, so depending on the occasion, we would book earlier or later to avoid nap time, or I will adjust his nap to put him down an hour or so earlier so he still gets a good sleep beforehand. The same goes for dinner – if he’s had a hectic day we don’t try to eat too late so as to overlap too much of bedtime as I find this pushes him too much, but I will also sometimes put him down for a later afternoon nap so he will stay up a bit later than usual.
However, none of this applies when we’re on holiday – he will happily sleep in the pram over lunch and even at night, so we can have a much later dinner as the Spanish do!

Go somewhere where they will like the food
I always scout out menus online first to make sure there will be something for Indy to eat, either from a children’s menu or a combination or starters a side dishes. We also sometimes share our dishes with Indy so he gets to try different bits over a period of time, which keeps him occupied for longer! A successful meal is always the result of having a satisfied and full toddler 😉

Take back-up snacks
I always pack some small bits of food just in case – anything easy that I know he will like and he can have quickly, like fruit and crackers. Snacks stave off hunger pangs when waiting to order, or if the food is taking longer than expected, and fruit also acts as a good dessert for them if you are still eating!

Entertainment. Entertainment, Entertainment
I always try and mix this up, so he doesn’t get bored of the same things. It can be anything from new books, colouring pads and crayons, to small puzzles. I’ve recently bought a small magna doodle which is a big hit, and he also loves wind up toys that move and do tricks across the table. Anything that grabs his attention and keeps him in his seat is a winner, as well as things that my husband and I can play with him too.

Change of scenery
There always comes a point where he needs to stretch his legs, normally after he’s eaten, so a little walk outside works a treat for a change of scenery and to burn a bit of energy. With Indy, there is little point forcing him into his high chair for the duration of the meal, but a little run around will buy us a bit more time!

Involve them in the meal and conversation
This is an obvious one, but this really grabs his attention and focus. This can be getting him to try new foods or part of our meal, talking to the waiter / waitress, or just reading a book or colouring together. Having a meal out can be really good for family bonding time where there are no other distractions. Even if you are dining with other people, it means there are more people to entertain! 😉

Always tidy up afterwards
I do this if we are in a small coffee shop to if we are in a higher end restaurant. It’s inevitable the floor will get a bit messy with a toddler, so I always try and leave the area as we found it, from tidying up the crumbs and bits of food to wiping down the high chair. It makes me feel better that if things have been a bit hectic, we will always be welcomed back 🙂

My final tip is to STAY CALM! It’s so easy to get stressed in a quiet environment surrounded by people, but staying calm will keep your toddler calm, so at least you can make a quiet hasty exit! 😉 xxx