ARE YOU DINING OUT WITH YOUR TODDLER?
Dining out with your toddler is a healthy developmental milestone for parent and child alike. For your toddler, it’s an opportunity to see new places and people, try different foods, and start to practice dining skills. For you, dining out can be a welcoming change of environment.
TIPS ON PLANNING BEFORE EATING OUT
Nervous about making it go smoothly? It’s easy. Set realistic expectations. Practice makes perfect. You may need to roll with spills, dropped napkins, or a quick-paced meal. Don’t expect too much from your child, go easy. Handle tantrums tactfully and avoid disturbing other diners if your toddler’s behaviour gets out of control.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT RESTAURANT
Baby friendly restaurants don’t just mean those that come with high chairs. A family-friendly eatery is a safer pick at this age than your favourite candlelit spot, where service might be slower and less focused on kids. Here are some signs that kids are welcome at sit-down restaurants: special kids’ menus with smaller portions, “kids eat free” offers, crayons at the table, other children in attendance and of course, high chairs too.
SMART TIPS FOR SMART MUMS
Time the meal right. Pick a time that’s in sync with your toddler’s schedule. A 7pm reservation won’t suit a child whose regular bedtime is 7:30 pm. Go early so you won’t have to wait for a table.
Pack toddler tools. The meal may go more smoothly if you bring along your toddler’s own sippy cup (ideally with a lid), bib and toddler-size eating utensils.
Bring kid-friendly entertainment. Give your child something to do while waiting for your order: a cloth book, mini crayon set of 5 with a colouring page, a quiet toy or anything new.
The starting point. Clear the dinner table of dangers. Move candles, condiments, knives, and glasses of water out of reach as soon as you sit down. Get the table cleaned if necessary. Use wet wipes to clean your toddler's hands.
Fusion foods. Mix your toddler’s familiar foods with new ones. Some toddlers are adventurous eaters, but most are naturally a little finicky and may be wary of new foods. To avoid a ruckus, it helps to order something you know your child will like along with something new to try (maybe a taste from your plate will help in deciding).
Smart portion choices. An adult-size portion is too big for a toddler and easy temptation to make a mess. If child-size options aren’t available, order an edible appetizer or share part of your meal.
Time management. Keep the meal short and sweet. Order drinks, entrées, starters and desserts all at once, and ask for the cheque at the same time so there is no time wasted. Waiting for a cheque can test a toddler’s limited patience. When your toddler finishes eating and toys no longer hold her attention, it’s time to go home.
Children grow up. More leisure meals are kept for the future when your child grows up. But in the meantime, these are little steps in enjoying some time out on the town together.