Eating out with Toddlers: Tips for Family Fine Dining
Once at the Restaurant
- Don’t try to sneak your baby in. Enlist the help of the restaurant staff. Introduce your baby to the host/hostess and say, “Hannah is really looking forward to your wonderful food!” The host/hostess will see how cute your baby is, make goo-goo eyes at her, and do whatever he/she can to make you meal go smoothly.
- Sit near the door if possible. If your child cries, take him outside immediately. Be firm with your child that he cannot reenter the restaurant until he calms down and is quiet.
- Take a walk immediately after you order your food. This could be around the restaurant or outside.
- Improvise. Cloth napkins work to strap your child to the high chair so he doesn’t bounce or crawl out. Likewise, feel free to hold your child—a parent’s lap can help relax a little one.
- Set limits about where your antsy toddler can toddle. Around your table is fine, but the aisle is off-limits, as are other people’s tables.
- Drape and cover! You might want to carry a small plastic drop cloth for under baby’s chair, especially if you know that your chosen dining destination has nice rugs. Wait to shake until outside. Well outside.
- When ordering food, don’t forget your child. A side order or two will make your toddler feel special and may actually land her something she likes. Little kids tend to like food that comes in tiny bits (noodles, beans, peas, blueberries, cut-up fruit) and many don’t like their foods to touch each other.
- Give your child tastes of your food. If you treat food and eating as an adventure, your child (eventually if not immediately) will too.
- Offer to clean up under the high chair when you’re done. The restaurant staff will refuse (it’s not good business practice to have the customer on her knees, at least not in a nice restaurant) but they’ll appreciate your offer. They may even resist putting up the “closed” sign when they see you walking down the street.
Final Words of Advice
Relax. And (try to) have fun! Remember, when enjoying a meal out on the town with your kids in tow, there are two very important rules that must never be broken:
- Don’t ever, ever change a baby or toddler at the table. I’m not kidding, and I mean it.
- Leave a big tip.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN