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The Ultimate Guide to Dining Out with a Toddler: Tips for Stress-Free Dining

dad and daughter looking at a menu

Dining out with a toddler can be a daunting task for any parent. The thought of managing tantrums, spills, and picky eating in a public setting may seem overwhelming. However, with the right preparation and strategy, dining out with your little one can be an enjoyable and stress-free experience for the whole family. In this guide, we will share practical tips and tricks to make dining out with a toddler a breeze.

Step 1: Choose a Toddler-Friendly Restaurant:

Selecting the right restaurant can make a significant difference in your dining experience. Look for eateries that are welcoming to families and offer a child-friendly environment. Places with a kids' menu, high chairs, and clean changing facilities can make your outing much smoother. This is not always an easy task, which is why I started reviewing local places that we have visited to help other moms. However, here are some ways you can determine the friendliness of a restaurant before you go.

Research online: Start by researching the place online. Look for reviews or articles from other parents who have visited with their toddlers. They may share their experiences and provide valuable insights into the toddler-friendliness of the location.

Check Amenities: Look for amenities that cater to toddlers, such as changing stations, family restrooms, play areas, or stroller-friendly paths. These facilities can make a significant difference in your comfort and convenience while exploring the place with your child. If the information is not available online call the restaurant and simply ask. There is nothing worse than going to a restaurant and them not having a changing table when you need one.

Safety Measures: Assess the safety measures in place, such as childproofing, safety gates, or secured play areas. Ensure that potential hazards are minimized or properly addressed.

Kid-friendly Activities: Check if the place offers activities or attractions suitable for toddlers. Look for areas with age-appropriate play equipment, interactive exhibits, or child-friendly shows. Most restaurants don't have activities that work for our toddler, but every now and then we find one that has something for our girl. It's not essential but it's nice when a place does have something for her to do after dinner. If not actually at the restaurant, being near a park or kid friendly activity place is a great thing to keep in mind as well.

Reviews from Other Parents: Seek out reviews from other parents on travel websites or parenting forums. Hearing about their experiences and recommendations can provide valuable insights. If possible, ask locals (if you're not from around the area) or friends who have been to the place if it is suitable for toddlers. They might be able to provide firsthand information and tips.

Noise Level: Consider the noise level of the place. Some toddlers may be sensitive to loud noises or crowded areas. Some restaurants may have live bands that can be too loud for small toddler ears.

Step 2: Time It Right:

Timing is everything, moms! Plan your dining adventure during your toddler's regular mealtime to avoid hunger-induced meltdowns. Opt for early dinners or lunchtime when restaurants are quieter and more accommodating to families.

Step 3: Pack a Toddler Survival Kit:

Let's be prepared! Create a toddler survival kit filled with your child's favorite toys, coloring books, and quiet games. Don't forget their comfort item too; it can save the day!

  1. Snacks: Have you ever been somewhere to eat and for whatever reason the wait is insanely long – either for your table or for your food? Personally, we have been places and waited two or more hours. Snacks will help tide your toddler over while you wait and to help prevent your little one from a hunger-induced meltdown.

  2. Bring Wipes and Bibs: Messes are part of the fun, right? Be prepared with wipes and bibs to clean up spills and keep your toddler comfortable during the meal. Wipes come in great handy cleaning up messes both on and off your toddler.

  3. Wipeable Table Mat: Consider a reusable or disposable table mat for dining out. We love the designs on the disposable ones and will ask our little one questions about what is on the mat while we wait. Pick the one that is right for your needs, or skip it all together. It's not a must have but it is great for not putting their food directly on the table or worrying about them tossing the plate in the floor.

  4. Small Toys: Consider a small toy or board book to entertain your little one while they are waiting. Suction Cup Spinner Toys, Nuby Silly Spinwheel, Melissa & Doug First Bead Maze are great options if you want something that will stick to the table and keep them entertained. Busy Boards are another great option, this is one of Addie's favorites. Another great option is this drawing pad.

  5. Soothing items: A pacifier, blanket, or stuffed toy can make all the difference in an unfamiliar scenario.

  6. Sippy Cup or Water Bottle: Stay hydrated on the go by bringing a spill-proof sippy cup or water bottle. Some restaurants don't have the best cups for kiddos so bringing their familiar sippy cup or water bottle can make all the difference.

  7. Extra Clothes: Accidents can happen, so pack an extra set of clothes, including underwear and socks.

  8. Diapers and Wipes. Pretty self-explanatory, but even we have left our diaper bag at home on a couple of restaurant outings.

  9. Hand Sanitizer: Keep germs at bay with a travel-sized hand sanitizer.

Other good items to have on hand include:

  1. Small First Aid Kit: Include basic first aid supplies like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and adhesive tape for minor emergencies.

  2. Sunscreen and Bug Repellent: Depending on your destination, remember to pack child-safe sunscreen and bug repellent to protect them from the elements. I included links to Hello Bello and Avon Skin So Soft Bug Spray links from Amazon. Those will come quicker but cost a little more. If you order from Avon's website, you can save some money on the bug spray and they even have a combo sunscreen and bug spray. I haven't used the combo, but we love their bug repellent wipes.

  3. Portable Changing Pad: For diaper changes on the go, have a portable changing pad or disposable changing mats.

Remember, the contents of the toddler survival kit may vary, depending on your child's preferences, the duration of the outing, and the destination. Keep the kit lightweight, easy to carry, and organized for quick access to the items your toddler might need during your adventures.

Step 4: Engage your little one:

Get them involved in the experience! Let your little one make simple choices, like picking from the kids' menu or selecting their utensils. It's all about making them feel included. Offer them toys from the kit, talk to them, show them the items on the table, and let them look at the menu.

Engaging with your toddler at a restaurant is not only essential for their happiness, but also for promoting good behavior and social skills.

Here are some fun and inclusive ways to engage with your toddler at a restaurant:

Let Them Choose: Allow your toddler to make simple choices, such as picking from a couple of menu options or selecting their drink. This gives them a sense of independence and involvement in the dining experience.

Coloring Activities: Bring along some crayons and coloring sheets or activity books to keep your toddler entertained while waiting for the food. Many restaurants also provide kid-friendly coloring menus.

Storytelling: Create imaginative stories or tell funny anecdotes that involve your child as the main character. This will capture their attention and keep them engaged.

Talk About the Food: Discuss the different foods being served and ask your toddler what they think each one tastes like. Encourage them to explore new flavors.

Counting Games: Count objects like utensils, plates, or cups on the table. You can also count how many bites they take or how many sips they drink.

Ask About Their Day: Engage in conversation about their day or any fun activities they did. This helps them feel valued and included in the conversation.

Enjoy Silly Faces: Make funny faces at each other to spark laughter and giggles. Laughter is a great way to bond and create a positive dining experience.

Play with Utensils: Show your toddler how to stack and arrange utensils in different ways. Just make sure it's safe and not disruptive to others.

Remember to be patient and attentive during the dining experience. Toddlers may have moments of restlessness or fussiness, which is normal. By engaging with them and making them feel included, you'll create a positive and enjoyable atmosphere for both of you.

Step 5: Order their food when you order drinks

If possible, order your little's food with your drinks. This way they don't have to wait as long. Most likely their food will come out too hot to eat. When you order it ahead of time, you can break it up for them and let it cool while you wait. Usually for us, we let Addie start eating when her food cools down. This helps lower the chances of a meltdown while you're trying to eat your own food.

Step 6: Plan Your Exit You've eaten, enjoyed your drinks, played, talked, and overall had a managable experiences. Now it's time to know when it's time to go! Ask for the check before you're done eating, so you can make a smooth exit. Also, consider asking for a to go box ahead of time if you will want to keep any leftovers. If your toddler needs a break, consider gathering up there stuff, taking them to the bathroom, and maybe go ahead to the car while the other partner pays.

You've got this, mama! Dining out with your toddler can be an adventure filled with laughter and precious memories. By following these tips and tricks, you'll be well-equipped to handle any dining challenge. So, get ready to enjoy some fantastic family meals and make dining out with your little one a breeze. Don't forget to sign up for our emails for more helpful tips. Happy dining!

Thanks for reading,


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Hi, I'm Angie

Hello there! I'm Angie, and I appreciate you taking the time to visit. I proudly embrace the role of being a mom to a delightful 20-month-old, while also embarking on a personal journey of self-discovery. Moving forward, I intend to delve into a wide range of topics, such as our daily routines, effective cleaning strategies, and dive deeper into our adventures with ASQ-3 Testing, helmet usage, and any other exciting aspects that arise along the way.

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