10 Tips for Eating Out with Toddlers

When my husband and I had kids we knew we didn’t want to sacrifice our occasional night out. I love trying new places, and even though we sometimes still get those harsh stares from kidless bystanders, I feel like we have a pretty good system down.

  1. Go early.
    Before kids, your preferred mealtime may have been 8pm. But if your baby’s bedtime is at 7:30pm, that’s not going to fly. Try making your reservation early. You’ll get in quickly and chances are other families will be there doing the same thing.

  2. Take snacks.
    This may seem counter-intuitive since you are on your way to dinner. But trust me, take snacks. Even if you have a sympathetic waiter that puts the kids’ order in first, it might take a while for it to get to you. Applesauce pouch for the win!

  3. Take toys.
    My boys have never once played with the piece of paper and four crayons that most restaurants give them. Not once. I always throw in a favorite toy that they’ve been interested in that day.

  4. Look at the menu before you go.
    If you know what you want when you arrive, you can place your food order with your drink order and it will get to the table that much faster. Voila! Happy kids.

  5. If the weather is nice, eat on the patio.
    There’s usually less people to upset on the patio. If your child throws food or throws a tantrum, it’s no big deal.

  6. If the weather is bad, try a sports bar.
    Sports bars are usually loud and have a lot of stimulation. When a kids melts down there’s something to distract him. Or if he decides to sing at the top of his lungs, like my boys often do, there’s a lot of noise to cover the tunes.

  7. If your toddler is too big for a highchair find a good booth.
    When we realized we could put our toddler inside the booth and trap him in by sitting on the outside it was one of our best discoveries. Ha!

  8. Pick your battles.
    The other day we were out to eat and my toddler was having a total meltdown because I wouldn’t let him have the lime that came on the side of my margarita glass. I was worried the onlooking parents would judge me if I gave my kid a lime splashed with tequila. We’re talking, full blown tears, screaming, knocking things over, meltdown. So guess what? I gave him the lime and I enjoyed my drink.

  9. Do your research.
    If a restaurant is kid-friendly they’ll probably have a kids menu. Do a quick google search and check out the reviews and their menu online. If there’s no kids menu listed, maybe save it for date night.

  10. If all else fails, there’s no shame in the cellphone!
    Listen, I hear you, I never wanted to be that parent either. I would see families out with their kids and they were all on cellphones or some kind of device and I would judge. But sometimes, when it’s been a long day, if your child wants to watch 20 minutes of PBS Kids and it gives you enough time to have a real conversation with your partner, it’s worth it. No harm, no foul.

Have any more tips that we left out? Let’s start a conversation in the comments!

Photo by Henrique Félix.