How to Make Eating Out with Toddlers Stress-Free

Do you dread taking your little one to a restaurant? Does a quiet dining out experience turn into a nightmare? Don’t fret. Here are some tips to ensure that your time out is hassle-free

By Shilpa Sandesh

How to Make Eating Out with Toddlers Stress-Free

Consider this typical situation: you have planned the perfect eating out experience, dreaming about some quiet fun with family at your favourite restaurant. The reservations are in place and your little ones are all dressed and raring to go. You reach the place of your choice and within a few minutes, there are mumblings of “I’m bored”, followed by noisy playing with the cutlery and finally, little feet running all around the restaurant, bumping into waiters and disturbing diners. Half your evening is spent shushing your children and apologising to other people. As the nightmare evening draws to a close, you vow never to dine out with children in tow.

Does this awkward situation ring a bell? As parents of small children, have you been faced with similar embarrassment and have wondered how would you ever manage the stress of a restaurant date with kids?

Actually, it isn’t that difficult. It’s true that sometimes, taking a toddler to a restaurant is like dealing with a hurricane. But, all you need is some tact and a little bit of planning.  A weekend dining out is perhaps the most sought after moment, if you are really busy through the week and want to bond with your family.  Here are some valuable tips to make your eating out experience stress-free and memorable --  

Basic manners 

Children will be children and you cannot expect them to be otherwise.  But giving them some lessons in politeness and essential manners at home will definitely make a difference. Teach your toddler some basic table manners and through fun and play, tell her what kind of behaviour is expected of her in public.  Toddlers learn by watching elders, so make it a habit of having basic table etiquette in place whenever the family eats at home.

Schedule management

 Every parent realises that once the baby arrives, the family’s routine revolves around the schedule of the little one. From your waking hour to finally calling it a day, your everyday routine is governed by your child. Try to schedule your dining outings according to your kids’ meals timings. And see the fuss surprisingly go down!

The dining set up 

Children need distractions as they get bored too fast. And surely you must have experienced a great deal of furore after you took away that fork or knife your kid was busy banging on the plate. Choose a place that has kid-friendly cutlery and also take along some distractions like a cuddly toy. Also make sure you order food that your child likes, to avoid any disappointment.      

Keep calm and engage in banter 

When a parent starts panicking about a child’s tantrums and constantly tells him to behave, the situation can only get worse. Just keep your composure and engage the little one in an animated conversation. If you keep them occupied by asking them interesting things about their day, children may be distracted d feel happy.

Choose a kid-friendly place 

When planning the outing, pick a restaurant that is kid-friendly or have certain activities to engage children. Choose a casual dining space, rather than a fine-dining restaurant, to avoid embarrassment when your child turns noisy. Many restaurants, these days, have table mats that have puzzles printed on them, or interesting picture books for your toddler. Some also have play spaces to keep children occupied. Look out for such places when you make plans .

Don’t be a gadget parent

 It sounds easy to let your kids get occupied in an endless chain of videos on a tablet or phone but there are better alternatives to engage an active child. It is a good idea to take along years some colouring books and crayons, or your toddler’s favourite toy. You can also take some coloured papers and make quick origami to delight the little one.

Don’t be rude

 It is a part of human nature to react to situations. But a rude reaction or scolding your kid for their fussy act in a restaurant might just worsen the scenario. Be firm without showing anger.

It’s not unfair to think about your free space after becoming parents. But we need to understand that toddlers cannot perceive and fathom your situation or your exhaustion. Hence, they say that parenting comes with an expectation of a great deal of patience and poise. Restaurants, social gatherings, public places lend some experiences to every parent and these little situations are additions to your parenting knowledge. So next time you dine out, just keep these tips in mind.

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