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Tackling Restaurants with Busy Toddlers

Eating out with my toddler is an adventure every single time. Sometimes I see other toddlers sitting quietly entertaining themselves or staring at something animated on a smart phone while the parents enjoy a leisurely meal and what seems to be adult conversation. I’ve yet to experience that. I try to keep Annabelle away from screen time as much as possible, so far the only time she’s watched anything on my smart phone was after waiting several hours for a CT scan at the ER after she fell and bumped her head. That may change as she gets older but I hope to save that for ’emergency’ situations.

If you have a picky eater take a look at my Fox News article for tips of how to provide the best nutrition for picky eaters!

I’ve given up on having a nice leisurely meal at a restaurant with Annabelle in tow. She won’t sit still, she gets bored, she wants to move around and walk around and explore and be constantly entertained. For a while we didn’t eat out at all. And then we came to accept that dining out with a busy toddler can still be fun as long as you don’t have the expectation that it’ll be a leisurely meal where you can sip a glass of wine and relax.

So if you have a toddler that likes to get in and out of her chair after crawling under the table and makes you wish you would have eaten at home I have some tips that might help you out. They’ve definetley helped us.

1. If you’re going somewhere new and know ahead of time where you’re going look at the menu. Make sure there’s something your toddler will eat and being able to order right away will cut down on wait time.

2. Pass on the rolls. Just like us, if your child is hungry and has a basket of rolls set in from of them chances are they’ll fill up on them before you’ve even placed your order. If you can, bring some carrot sticks or a snack pack of raisins with you if you want to them them something to munch on while they wait.

3. Bring some extra snacks. The last thing you want is to order something you think you’re toddler will like but alas they refuse to touch it. That just makes the grumpy factor skyrocket, so instead of having a food war at a restaurant I come prepared. I usually bring an organic fruit pouch (Mashups or Ellas) and a lara bar, cliff bar or organic pure bar or whatever your child likes that’s easy to throw in a purse.

4. Make a fun bag. We have a special bag that we take to restaurants (when I remember) and it’s full of fun stuff that Annabelle likes to keep her entertained. Ours has some of Annabelles favorite things: a board book, crayons and a small notepad, stickers, fake bugs, a small car and whatever other nonesense I can find in the dollar bins at target that she might like.

Annabelle at 22 months, putting stickers all over her nonno!

5. Leave a good tip. I remember seeing parents eating with their toddler at Chipotle when Annabelle was still too little to make a huge mess and they left an enormous mess of rice all over the floor. They just got up and left without picking up a single grain of rice. Then Annabelle started making those huge messes and there’s not too much you can do. We always wipe off our seats and the table as best we can and we even pick stuff off the floor but at the end of the day someone else is going to clean up that mess and the least you can do is give them a thank you in the form of a good tip.

If you want a leisurley meal with adult conversation get a babysitter. Unless you have one of those super amazing kids that will actually let you sit down and relax. I can’t even begin to imagine what that would be like…

How do you keep your toddler entertained when eating out? Share your tried and true tips!!


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