Enjoying a meal out with a toddler
It started with the menu. It was waved around, used as a hat and, finally, after refusing to surrender it to the waiter, it was thrown on the floor. Then came the wiggling, occasional shouts of boredom and lunges for silverware.
As the noise level increased, so did my furtive looks at our fellow diners. Were they paying attention to our table? When my husband and I walked into the restaurant with our 19-month-old son, did they inwardly cringe at the possibility of having their meal disrupted?
Generally, my son is pretty well-behaved at restaurants. He’s been eating out with us since he was a few weeks old. He knows the routine and usually enjoys watching waiters bustle and diners come and go. Sometimes, not so much.
Over the last year and a half, we’ve learned a few things that work for us to help make the meal more enjoyable. Most of the time these work, but as any caregiver knows, there’s no guarantees with children.
1.) Be prepared. If we’re going to eat somewhere that I don’t think has food my son will eat, I bring a few little snacks or a drink, or feed him at home before we go. Also, bring a favorite toy. We try to keep a toy in the diaper bag that he only gets when we’re out, so it’s more interesting. And it probably goes without saying, but we bring extra diapers and wipes. Your child probably isn’t going to be the best meal companion if they need to be changed.
2.) Keep a wide berth on the table. One of the first things we do when we are seated is to rearrange the items on the table so they are at least an arm’s length away from our son. At his age, he’s like an octopus — there are what seem like 20 arms waving about, grabbing at anything. The more inappropriate the better. A steak knife or hot plate? Perfect!
3.) Know your restaurants. One of our favorite restaurants to take our son to is the Jimmy’s Egg by our house. The waitresses are in constant motion, which is fun for him to watch. They also all know him and make a point to stop by the table and talk to him throughout the meal. Our little flirt loves the attention. Another upside is that we know there are lots of families there, which means lots of noise. If our son yells, it’s not going to be as big a deal as it would in a fancy dining establishment. We know sitting still and quiet for an hour or two is a lot to ask of a toddler, so we get a babysitter if that’s going to be the case.
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