One of the most daunting things about being a parent is going to a restaurant. What used to be such a joy and a night off from cooking is now overwhelming – just the thought of your child throwing food, causing a scene and the disapproving looks from others around is enough to keep you homebound until they are at least 6. I don’t believe it has to be this way – and I think enjoying a dinner out with my family is one of my favorite things. Here are some of my tips as well as the accessories that have made eating out such a pleasure for me and my family.
1) Make yourself a regular chose 3 or 4 of your favorite restaurants and be loyal! Be sweet and charming with all the staff – making sure to be excited to see everyone and asking after them and their families so that yours is the face they most want to see walking through their door.
2) Go early, like 6ish so that your little one doesn’t get overly tired, the restaurant won’t be full (so you won’t have to wait for a table or for food too long) also, you can get your babe home by bed time (perhaps they might even start to nod off on the ride home).
3) Bring snacks and put your child’s order in first so that he’s entertained (eating is an activity)and not getting hangry (huger always leads to anger).
4) Bring some toys. Nothing too loud or electronic but a little car, rattle, a doll – something that can keep little one entertained and not bored.
5) Engage with them. Yes, you want to have an adult conversation, but don’t forget to include your child – talk to them about what they’re playing with, what they’re eating, ask them if they want water and have them engage with the waiters and staff. They want to be feel included, even if they’re not necessarily understanding or speaking yet.
6) Tip well. Always tip at least 20% at least and if the baby is acting up a bit – add a bit extra.
7) Be gracious and apologetic to those around you when your baby acts up a bit.
8) If it’s nice out – outdoor dining is always the best option. The open air helps dull the noise if they’re being loud and if they get a bit fussy allows one of you to take them for a bit of a stroll.
9) Be considerate to staff. When your child throws food all over the floor do your best to clean up after them. This goes a long way and illustrates mutual respect.
10) See below for my favorite eating out accessories – from the place mat that provides a clean surface for little one to eat off of (and rolls up neatly to fit in your purse) to the straw sippy cup (good for avoiding spillage) – these are my must haves: