Dining out with a Toddler

Happy Friday, everyone!  First, I have to just pause for a second and say “Wow.”  Did I just write TODDLER up there?  I can’t believe that’s actually what Gracie technically is now… wasn’t it just yesterday I brought her home from the hospital?  Goodness, time goes by quickly.

Back to the subject at hand.  I’m going to start by being honest and say that I’m not much of the “adapt your child into your lifestyle” mind and so I don’t really go out to eat with Gracie all that much.   Actually, my official policy is: AVOID WHENEVER POSSIBLE.  Why?  It’s hard work!!  That said, there are times when it’s either necessary or I’m feeling risky and we give it a go.  Here are some of the things I’ve found that can help:

1) Find a kid-friendly restaurant.  The worst thing would be to take my little one into a fancy restaurant full of fancy adults trying to enjoy a fancy… kid-free… evening.  I find that any place with a paper kids’ menu and crayons is usually a good bet.  Which leads me to…

2) Bring distractions.  When eating out with Gracie, not much actual eating really gets done (by either one of us).  It does help, though, if I have (quiet) toys for her to play with at table.

3) Stand firm on remaining in highchair.  I’ve learned the hard way that there are two points of no return: first, I will not take Gracie out of the highchair – for any reason – unless I’m prepared to have her out of the highchair the rest of the meal as she will not go back in once out.  Next, if I have taken her out, I will NOT let her down on the floor to walk around because (you guessed it) once she’s out of arms, it will be a loud struggle to sit her back down on my lap.  Trust me: your fellow diners do not want your child running around… no matter how cute babe happens to be.

4) Eat outside.  This may be a unique method for my daughter, but I find that dining al fresco keeps Gracie better distracted than indoors.  Luckily we live in Atlanta where the weather stays quite lovely for quite a long time.  And finally…

5) Know when to call it quits.  Order the three-course meals at your own risk – don’t stretch dinner on longer than your toddler can handle!  And if a tantrum is thrown with no end in sight?  Box up your meal and split.

I am relieved to say that the older Gracie gets, the easier we are finding our occasional meal out (as long as we follow these guidelines.)  We had a great time with our friend, Miss Kathy, this week while Nannie is out of town.   Thanks for the company, Kathy!

What tips can you share about successfully dining out with your children?  I’m starting to feel I can handle this stage, but I know there will be more to learn as Gracie grows.  Can any of you share your experiences with dining out with older toddlers?

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2 Responses to “Dining out with a Toddler”

  1. Alexis October 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    So young to be coloring so well! Look at the way she holds the crayon; I love it.

  2. Hillary October 5, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    I love booths! Tatum usually lasts a bit longer when she’ able to move around so booths are great — we usually have her between two adults or me and the wall. This way she has the freedom to sit, stand and eat while we eat….quickly!

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