10 Tips to Survive Dining Out with a Toddler
1. Know where you are goingDoes the place have highchairs? Booster seats? A Kids Menu? All of these things are important and will also help gauge how family friendly the restaurant is. If they don't have a kids menu, this is a good clue that you may want to choose another option, as they will most likely not be as kid friendly. Also knowing if you need to feed your toddler ahead of time, or not will help so that you don't end up with a hungry toddler before dessert is served.
2. Don't expect perfect behaviorRemember that your child is not an adult, they are a toddler! They have a much shorter attention span and do not understand why they must stay in a chair and be quiet. I often forget this of my own son, and when he does excellent in a situation for a toddler, I think he didn't do so great because I am comparing him to an adult.
3. Use it as a teaching opportunityDining out is an opportunity to model and teach your child appropriate behavior. Their watching eyes see every thing and they will learn by the example you set and how you teach them to behave. While it may not seem like it at the time, they are learning as you teach so even when it feels like your teaching to a wall,
4. Quiet ActivitiesThe internet is full of things like quiet books, free coloring pages, etc. Find some quite activities your child enjoys and then allow them to quietly play while you eat.
5. BYOS - Bring Your Own SilverwareI have yet to encounter a restaurant that has toddler silverware. My son attempting to eat mac and cheese at Panera with an adult soup spoon, is comical and messy. I always keep a spare set in the diaper bag for just that occasion.
6. Give them a breakSometimes, they need to get out some energy. Take them outside, let them run a bit and return them to the table. If they are like my son, make sure they know that they need to go back and sit quietly afterwards. If the weather doesn't permit an outside walk, quietly walk them around the inside. Sometimes a change of senary makes all the difference in the world.
7. Be ready to leaveToddler meltdowns happen. Be ready to pay and exit quickly should the need arise so that you don't bother fellow diners. Most establishments will be more than happy to box your meal for you and let you pay at the front to allow you to remove your toddler who is being loud.
8. Be courteousTo your server - clean up the mess that your child made as much as possible, and leave a nice tip. To fellow diners - allow them to enjoy their meal. To your child - yelling will not make the situation better, I promise.
9. Reward good behaviorAlways verbally praise your child for behaving well. Give them a high five or an extra hug letting them know you are proud of them. Do not be above bribery! My son has learned that if he behaves well, sometimes he will get a special treat. It may be a packet of fruit snacks, or a cookie, or ice cream. It may be an old tired trick, but it works.
10. Enjoy your dinner!You are having a dinner out, enjoy it. Most of the people around you have had children at one point or another, don't stress the entire time about what you think others are thinking about you and your family. Most of the time, they are just enjoying their dinner too.
Hope that you enjoyed this weeks edition of Tips for Toddlers! Each Tuesday this month I will be sharing some tips I have learned while living life with my crazy toddler. Last week we did Tips for Moving with Toddlers and next week we will be doing Tips for Traveling with Toddlers.