It never fails; your sweet, wellbehaved toddler waits until the nice family night at the restaurant to self-implode. Your meal is ruined and chances are you’ve ruined the evening of those glaring restaurant patrons too. Avoid crying into the spilt milk by planning ahead. The most effective way to have success at restaurants is to keep going to them! The more he learns what it’s all about, the better your dining adventures will be. And one last thing you need to pack: your sense of humour. If you’re nervous and worried, chances are your toddler will pick up on that tension and make all your worries come true. Have a laugh! Chubby fingers in your iced tea or a few projectile peas are never a cause for worry.
PICK THE RIGHT RESTAURANT.
There are many restaurants where patrons expect to have little ones enjoying the
fare. Avoid five-star restaurants; familyfriendly is the best bet.
GO WHEN YOUR TODDLER IS RESTED.
If he’s skipped his nap today, skip the outing.
TAKE A WALK.
Prior to the meal arriving and after you’ve placed your order, give your toddler a tour of the restaurant. Please don’t allow him to ‘visit’ other customers. Although we all know he is the cutest child on earth, some guests might not want to have to pretend to be charmed!
BE PREPARED WITH SNACKS.
Waiting is not a toddler’s strong suit. Have little containers of finger foods to keep him from getting bored or hungry.
PACK A CHANGE OF CLOTHES AND, OF COURSE, A DIAPER.
(No changing at the table, please!) Having extra clothing will save you from the great apple juice fiasco and a dripping wet toddler. Pack supplies to make the trip easier. Include such things as a sippy cup, paper towels and the always-handy package of baby wipes.
ORDER WHAT HE’LL EAT.
Toddlers love choice and finger foods. Order some sides for your little gourmet, such as little plates of pasta, peas, carrots and a soft bun to work on. This is not the time to try a new or exotic dish.
ASK IF THE KITCHEN CAN COOL ANYTHING THAT MIGHT BE TOO HOT.
Frustration at not being able to get his little fingers on that plate of chicken pieces can be fuel for a meltdown.
BRING A SURPRISE.
In addition to favourite colouring books, pack a new, small toy that will amuse your child. Make sure it doesn’t make too much noise that will irritate other diners.
DINE AT HIS DINNERTIME.
Don’t expect a toddler to wait until six to eat if he’s used to eating at five. If you must eat late, give him dinner on schedule, and then only expect him to snack during your meal.
SIT NEAR THE DOOR IF POSSIBLE.
Not so close that you’re inviting his escape, but close enough that you can quickly take him outside if he starts getting too disruptive.
SHARE KEEPING YOUR CHILD AMUSED WITH YOUR DINNER COMPANIONS.
Unless you’re dining alone, take turns walking your child around the restaurant, holding him on your lap or making puppets out of the napkins.
CLEAN UP BEFORE YOU LEAVE.
Do your best to leave the restaurant as you found it. Then the next time you want to go to that restaurant, they won’t be putting up the ‘closed’ sign as your family enters the door.
If your waitperson ended up with sweet potatoes on her uniform, or performed your child’s favourite song, give her a nice tip. PC