So it’s your first time eating out with your little one and you want to know what to expect. That’s just good parenting right there. Eating out with your toddler can present parents with challenges they didn’t even know existed until they first walk into that quiet restaurant with their little one, who is basically just a mass of really excitable energy. Here are three challenges you’re likely to encounter, and easy tips on how to overcome them.
Items on the Kids’ Menu are not likely to be the healthiest choices.
When restaurants offer a kids’ menu, they very rarely have nutrition as their top priority, so the items are likely salty and greasy, just in smaller portions than the adult-size counterparts. If this is the case with your local restaurant, try ordering a meal from the regular menu and share with your child. Grilled chicken and good ol’ spaghetti and meatballs are classic choices that both you and your toddler will enjoy. You could also order an appetizer and have that as your little one’s full meal, just make sure it’s healthy and not saturated in MSG.
A tantrum is always a looming danger.
Tantrums happen when you least expect them to happen, and eating out with your toddler is no exception. They could be triggered by long wait times, an overdue nap, lack of engagement, loud noises–anything, really. And when the tantrums happen, it’ll take a lot of patience and probably noise-canceling headphones to get through the meal. Victory is for the prepared, however. You can easily avoid tantrums by taking coloring books or other distractions with you and whip them out at the first sign of trouble. There are certainly other ways to placate a brewing tantrum, but I find coloring books to be the most effective. You can check out some other methods here discussed in full detail [INSERT LINK HERE]
Toddlers are messy, messy eaters.
There’s no way around it: toddlers, in general, are just very messy with their food. It’s just the way they are. This is part of their growth and development. Remember, you’re in a different environment, so all the textures, tastes, and even just the experience of wiping food on a different surface is, for your little one, a learning experience. Even if you’ve taught your little one how to use utensils, things can get pretty messy. Spoons can be used as catapults, after all. With the restaurant’s permission, you can actually mess-proof your child’s dining surface with a Bibiluv mat. They’re sticky mats that don’t leave any residue on surfaces they stick on and make clearing out messy surfaces really easy.
Parent Pro-tip: if your child drops food on the floor intentionally, don’t pick it up right away or your child will think that this is a game and continuously let food items fall off the table. Do the clean up after or when your child isn’t looking–your servers will definitely appreciate the initiative.
So those are just three challenges that you should now be well-prepared for. It’s important to remember to stay calm during this culinary blitzkrieg and avoid anger as much as possible. Once again, this is your child’s learning phase, so you’ll want her/him to learn a degree of calmness by setting a good example. And if you keep these tips in mind, you’re sure to have a wonderful time eating out with your little one! I promise you and your toddler will enjoy yourselves.