How To Dine Out With Your Toddler Without The Stress

a toddler eating french fries

Going out to a nice restaurant is a luxury you might expect gets pushed to the bottom of your “things you can do” list after you have a baby. Luckily, this couldn’t be further from the truth – while dining out with baby likely won’t be your top priority, there’s no reason moms and dads can’t take their little one out for a nice meal.

Of course, there will be obstacles that make the whole eating out experience a bit more difficult. That said, with a little planning, you can have a pleasant dining experience with your toddler by your side.

Picking a time

Your toddler likely has a schedule that should be followed more or less every day. You know around what time she will get fussy because she’s overtired and when she’ll be hungry. Since you have this privileged information, you can use it to plan your meal out. Choose a time that’s not too close to naptime (or choose a time that’s right after), and plan to eat at around the time she normally eats.

A toddler sits in his mother's lap at a restaurant.Bringing your child to a restaurant doesn’t have to be stressful.

Sometimes, you simply can’t plan around your toddler’s schedule. When this is the case, plan ahead. If it’ll be a longer wait to her meal time than she’s used to, pack a snack that you know she’ll eat.

Additionally, consider common busy periods for the restaurant. Stay away from these. The last thing you want is a meltdown in a packed restaurant where everyone can hear your child’s wails.

Choosing a restaurant

Consider the restaurant’s style, menu choices and general atmosphere. Some restaurants just don’t allow kids, Eater pointed out, so be sure to double-check the policy before you make a reservation.

Some atmospheres won’t be compatible with your child. If your toddler feels anxious in loud, crowded spaces, a restaurant that fits this description isn’t the best idea.

Finally, think about food choice. If your child absolutely hates fish, don’t take him to the new sushi joint. Choose a restaurant that serves food that can easily be reheated, The Dahlia Scene suggested. That way, when your child gets full three bites into the spaghetti, you can take the whole thing home.

Why dine out with your toddler

With all the forethought required before you bring your toddler to a restaurant, parents may wonder, why bother? Why not just hire a sitter and enjoy the meal kid-free?

While a date night sans offspring is fun, there are numerous benefits to including your child in a few outings.

Taking your toddler out provides an excellent opportunity to begin demonstrating manners and socially acceptable behaviors. Your child will need to learn how to handle different situations sooner or later, and starting early on with low-stakes circumstances, like eating at a restaurant, can help to lay a foundation for this.

Additionally, going out to eat can help your child learn to be open-minded about new experiences, flexible routines and new foods. Even if you can’t (or don’t want to) convince your toddler to order something she’s never tried before, she can take a bite of two of your dish, Understood, a resource for parents of children with learning or attention difficulties, pointed out.