One of my favorite times of year is Restaurant Week. If you’re planning to participate or just need some tips about how to dine out with your toddler, here are some tips that should make the process go much smoother. Of course, if you are even reading this, I know that circumstances did not allow you to get a babysitter.
Have a Plan
Going to a nice restaurant (especially for dinner) with a toddler will work best when there is a plan in place. Trust me on this one. My family’s frequent travel lifestyle has allowed us to dine in some of the finest restaurants around the world. But no matter if we are dining in London, Bali, New York or Maui one thing remains the same, we always have a plan in place when dining with the little one. One way to do that is to peruse, the restaurant’s menu online ahead of time so that you can and get an idea of what you would like to order. This will save everyone time and help things run more smoothly.
It is not a good idea to schedule dinner when your little person is sleepy or hungry. Yes you read right. Give your toddler a small snack right before you get to the restaurant so that he or she is not famished waiting for your order to get to the table.
Request a Corner Table
Ask the restaurant host/hostess about getting a seat in a corner or away from most restaurant patrons if possible. Remember, although you were not able to secure a babysitter for your night out, you should try to be courteous to other restaurant patrons that are enjoying their night out. Your time will come.
Set the Rules
Be clear with your toddler about what the rules are early on. Set boundaries and enforce them. For example, keeping your little tike in the booster seat or high chair through-out the course of the dinner is a good rule to enforce. Not only will it keep small fingers out of other people’s food but, it really is not safe for an un-guided toddler to be walking around a restaurant anyway. Candle lit dinners, knives, hot plates and bustling servers can make the restaurant an unsafe place for a toddler to be.
Even if the server attempts to take your order first before that of your little one, politely request that you need to order the food of your toddler first. Also indicate that you would like your child’s meal to be served as soon as it is ready. More polished servers will do this automatically; novices however, may need a little reminder. Remember, although many steakhouses and fine dining restaurants may not have kid’s menus, the chef is willing and able to prepare items like chicken fingers, pasta with sauce and other items upon request. You just need to ask.
Cut it Short
I hate to say it, but this is probably not the time to order the chef’s “special tasting or prix fixe menu”. A two course maximum is essential unless you are dining at a very kid friendly restaurants or your toddler is more patient than usual.
I always go to even the finest restaurants equipped with three things: a bib, a sippy cup, and a favorite book or quiet toy (such as a plush animal or book). In addition, do not forget to pack essentials like diapers, wipes, pull-ups etc if you don’t want any accidents.
Be Ready to Call it Quits
At the end of it all, you should be ready to signal for the check and a to-go container at a moment’s notice. As a parent, you will know when your toddler has endured enough of a “good thing”. When that time comes, appreciate it for what it was and head out the door…food in hand of course. Although I hope that you will not need these tips ( due to having a reliable sitter and back-up sitter on speed dial), following these pointers will make you a pro at dining out with your toddler in no time.