9 Tips for Dining out with a Toddler

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When we’re out in public, I always worry about my kids offending others with their behavior. One of places that I used to be most afraid of is restaurants! However, I’ve made it to my third toddler without major incident. I haven’t had any flying food or nasty glares. We do usually leave a mess under the table, though. Nothing an extra tip can’t fix! Here are my 7 tips for dining out with a toddler.

Tips for Dining Out with a Toddler

Here are my 9 tips for Planning Ahead, Getting Ready and At The Restaurant!

Planning Ahead

Set the Expectation at Home
A child who always receives immediate service at home, won’t enjoy sitting at a restaurant table without food! I often put my little one in her high chair while I am preparing dinner with a toy or a few snacks. She’s used to waiting a little while for the main dish.

Choose a Restaurant with Kid-Friendly options
This may not be the best time to try the new restaurant or a cuisine your little one isn’t familiar with. Choose a place with their favorite dish on the kids menu.

Time It Right
Plan to arrive at the restaurant about half an hour before your normal meal time. That gives you time to order and be served. We generally avoid places where you’d have to “wait to be seated”. Save those for date night! Also, try to avoid peak times at restaurants, when service is likely to be slower.

Getting Ready

Eating Gear
I definitely bring a bib and a sippy cup. You might even consider bringing your toddlers utensils, if they have started using them! I like to bring my daughter’s booster that I can strap onto a chair and buckle her in. It’s a familiar spot, and she doesn’t put up a fuss. She’s always wiggling around in those wooden restaurant highchairs. They don’t keep her contained.

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Have a Busy Bag
If you have a small bag of unfamiliar toys, you can keep pulling out new ones. I keep our busy bag in the closet. It only comes out when I need good behavior at a restaurant, so the toys are like new.

Snacks
Nothing brings a smile to a grumpy toddler’s face like a bag of their favorite snack food. I bring this out when I really need it (when I can feel a meltdown brewing)!

At The Restaurant

Skip the Appetizer
Decide quickly and order quickly. An appetizer usually delays your main course. Those are precious minutes! If you do get an appetizer, order something your toddler will enjoy, too!

Take a Bathroom Break
We always use the restroom after placing our order. That seems to be the time when little ones get the most restless. It also avoids the “I have to go potty!” as you take your first bite!

Offer a Reward
I like to offer dessert or some other reward (like an extra book at bedtime) for good behavior. I’m not above a good bribe so I can enjoy a meal!

If you liked this post, check out these tips for eating out with a newborn.

What are your best tips for dining out with a toddler?


    7 thoughts on “9 Tips for Dining out with a Toddler”

    1. So important to plan ahead! When C was really little we used to take the gumbo with us. That thing was a miracle. Now that he’s older we make sure to have a coloring books and crayons 🙂

    2. Great tips. It is hard to get little ones used to the difference of eating out and eating at home. We don’t go out that often for this very reason, and it’s hard somedays. Thanks so much for sharing this.

    3. My son had just turned one and we have got very good at restaurants. We go just before his usual meal time and we order his food as soon as we sit down usually when they take the initial drinks order. Then he has food to entertain him straight away.
      Then toys come out while we finish up eating!

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