Eating out with a toddler
(Without using technology as a babysitter)
Going out to eat with a toddler can be a scary thought! The worst thing you can do is be unprepared. I have listed below a couple of things that have helped our VERY busy toddler sit in a restaurant for 45minutes to 1 hour at a time, without resorting to technology to keep her occupied.
Eating out is a social interaction and a skill to be taught to our children. Shoving a tablet or phone in front of them every time you sit down to eat not only cheats them out of learning these social skills, but also teaches them poor manners and teaches that it’s acceptable to be buried in a device screen instead of interacting with people around you. Now that’s not to say that we NEVER use technology as a distraction but it does not need to be your first line of defense. There are of course special occasions where you know dinner will run long or you’re not at a kid friendly place, or its just one of those days for your little one where they’re extra fussy, but as a whole technology should be a last resort.
You may think “but she’s just a baby she’s not going to interact with adults at the table” but kids pick up on EVERYTHING and they learn by example. How can they watch and learn if they’re staring at a screen or YOU never interact with them? Start in the direction you mean to go. In other words start now even if you think they won’t get it. Otherwise you may end up with a kid who throws tantrums if you try to take the screen away from them or it isn’t charged, or *gasps* you forget to bring it!
Here are tips that work for our family:
– Plan on eating during a time when toddler is awake and not right before nap or bed time
– Bring food -raisins, crackers, cookies- I know this may seem silly since you’re going out to eat, but the hardest time eating out is the time between when you first sit down and waiting for the food to come out.
– Ask for bread when you sit down (orange slices work too! Most restaurants will have one of these items)
– Bring quite toys (toy cars, crayons and paper, books)
– Bring a sippy cup
– Hold baby in your lap or pass her around the table in different laps until food comes to limit time in high chair. I know for our daughter she’ll MAYBE last 20 minutes in the high chair so I try not to put her in there until the food comes out and we need to have free hands.
– Take the kid outside – if the food is taking longer then expected or you have an extra fussy baby on your hands just take him outside for a bit, this is a good distraction and a good way to get some of that energy out.
– Eat outside -whenever possible, try to eat outside. It’s usually more kid friendly, more to look at, and noise level can be louder.
– sit in a booth – I love this option because you don’t need to hold a squirmy toddler, he can stand or sit in the booth between you and the wall and play with toys, snack, or chat there until the food comes
Cheers! And happy dining!