I’m trying to post more about the things people are asking about, and I get so many questions about how I’m able to eat out so often with toddlers!
I’m cracking up because I didn’t really think this was something I needed to post about, but I looked for other posts on the subject and HATED some of the advice. I read things like “Don’t worry if your kids are loud, they’re kids,” “Go to a buffet if possible” (UH, GROSS), and “don’t worry about cleaning up, that’s not your job.” I do NOT agree with any of that, so here are some tips/tricks that have worked for me 😉 – I’d love to hear any other ideas you may have!
Check for Highchairs (and use them!) Since the girls started sitting up, it’s pretty crucial that a restaurant have two available high chairs. Some restaurants, particularly smaller ones, only have one or two high chairs total, so if there’s another kid there already we are out of luck! I’ve actually called ahead before to ask how many high chairs there are if it’s a restaurant I’ve never been to – sounds weird but it’s so worth it!
If you don’t own this high chair, you need it. We actually use ours all the time at home, but if you have another high chair at home you could easily just keep this in the back of your car! It folds up into a bag that’s easy to carry! That way, if you find yourself in a situation where you need it, it’s there!
Maintain boundaries. I know this sounds idealistic, but I’m pretty strict when it comes to certain things. Like, it would take a lot for me to make an exception and let the girls eat out of their high chairs. They know that when it’s time to eat, they go in high chairs with buckles fastened. I’ve brainwashed them so much on this subject that they get upset if there isn’t a buckle ;). With twins, I HAVE to be able to contain them at certain times. I know pretty soon they will outgrow this, but for now we are going to keep it up!
Order fast. Even if you’re not ready to order for yourself, or don’t want to make the rest of the table feel rushed, have your order for your toddler(s) ready ASAP. I usually try to order their food when the server comes to get the drink order. If you have time before you get to the restaurant, check the menu and pick what you want for them so that you’re ready (and maybe even for yourself, then you don’t feel stressed if you don’t have time to browse the menu there!)
Time it Right. This is obvious, but don’t go out to eat during nap time, or way after bedtime. I actually LOVE the “geriatric dinner” these days! An early dinner keeps us all happy and usually gets us in and out before the restaurant gets too busy! Check this post for my thoughts on naps/sleep/schedules!
Be Aware. If you’re able to have a conversation with other adults, great. But don’t totally ignore your toddler if they need your attention! Make them feel a part of the group if it seems like they want to be, and pay attention to what they’re doing, eating, and how much noise they’re making! Also, if you notice that your server is on the slow side, be -pre-emptive by asking for the check/to-go boxes when they bring the food out so that you’re not left waiting forever at the end when your toddler is spent.
Clean up! Always! I always attempt to clean up around and under where my kids eat. Now that they are a little older, it’s getting much better. I’ve had so many servers genuinely thank me for doing it. I also think it sets a good example for my girls – it might not seem like they’re paying attention but they notice things like that! I don’t want them thinking they can be slobs and then just expect a worker to clean up after them ;). Make sure you have lots of your own wipes to help both with cleaning up your kid and the area!
Communicate. This might sound crazy, but have a talk with your toddler(s) beforehand and explain them what’s going on. They understand SO much more than we give them credit for, even when it doesn’t seem like they’re paying attention. Tell them where you’re going, who you’re going with, what kind of food they might get to eat, and ask them to be really good and eat. I do this with my girls all the time, and I swear it works!! They like to be a part of the conversation instead of just being dragged from place to place with no explanation.
What to order:
Of course use your best judgement based on what your kids like, but I’ve found that a kid’s meal isn’t always the best option. Sometimes there are really great sides that I can put together that my girls’ would love more and end up being healthier!
Things to bring:
Sippy cups. Meals always go smoother when the girls have their own cups and we don’t have to deal with too-full, easily spilled restaurant cups. Now that they’re getting a little older I don’t worry about this as much, but it helped me a ton a year ago!
Disposable Placemats. The girls are finally getting good with plates, but we LOVED these when they were younger. I’d just put them down as soon as we sat down, and I loved that I didn’t have to worry as much about germs or messes – I’d just roll the food up in them when were done and toss it!
Tablet/iPad/Smart Phone. Download a couple of educational, age-appropriate games beforehand. We also have movies downloaded from Diseny+ – I always try to keep a a supply of the all-time favorites (for us right now that’s Monsters Inc., Moana, Toy Story, and Coco) and then have a couple new options in case we need to mix it up! We have these tablets for the girls and love them:
Favorite small toys, play dough, crayons, etc. Here are a few favorite ideas:
Snacks. In case the food takes a while, it’s always smart to have pre-snacks!! If I really want them to eat, I’ll bring something not very filling, like popcorn or Pirate’s Booty.
Alright, that’s my best advice! I promise you, the more you do it, the easier it gets! And it’s sooo nice to feel like you can go do stuff instead of being stuck at home with a crazy kid (or kids!)
Good luck!!! I’d love to hear more of your advice in the comments below!