Eating out with an active toddler can seem more stressful than it’s worth. Here are some tips and tricks to help the experience go smoothly!
- Choose a family-friendly restaurant. Starting with a family-friendly restaurant can help take some of the pressure that fancier restaurants might bring. Then once everyone is practiced, transitioning to that fancy restaurant will be much smoother.
- Lower expectations. Understand that most adults understand that kids aren’t perfect. Your toddler may knock food off the table, talk loudly, or even through a tantrum. Most people won’t think much of it. Don’t spend time worrying so much about what other people are thinking. Everyone has to start somewhere; you and your child are learning together.
- Bring new toys. Have a specific set of toys different from the everyday ones used in the house. This process creates variety, and they’ll likely be more interested and stay focused longer!
- Maintain the boundaries. Identify the boundaries you set up as appropriate behavior for eating out and stick to them. Make sure your child understands them, and they are reiterated. You may even want to talk it about in the car on the way there.
- Celebrate the good behavior. Don’t just address the poor behavior. Praise when the child is exhibiting good behavior! Tell them everything they are doing right!
- Let your child be active anytime they can be. If you have a wait, let them play anywhere that is safe and under your supervision. This also means taking them someplace to walk around while waiting for the food to be served if they’re very restless.
- Toddlers love to explore, and this often means moving around. Try and get as much action in before you go. They sit in the car, but they now have to sit at a table. Before the meal, you have to get them moving around; the better.
- Order their food first. Most toddlers tend to take longer to eat than we do. If you ordered their food right away, it should come earlier and keep them busy longer and curb any fussiness from hunger.
- Let it be fun. In our household, we place a big emphasis on healthy eating. When we’re out to dinner, we allow finger foods, which tend to be not as healthy. Foods such as chicken fingers and French fries will enable the child to feed themselves and at their discretion while also allowing you to eat your meal! Once they can use a fork or spoon, this may not need to be applied.
- Prepare to be surprised. New experiences are just as exciting to them as they are to you! Almost every time I have been nervous about bringing my toddler somewhere, I have been pleasantly surprised.
I hope this helps and would love to hear some of your challenges when eating out with your kids.