What makes a good meal? Why do people go out to restaurants? These questions are directly linked to taking a toddler out for dinner. There are a lot of people who can cook quite well themselves, and with the huge range of quality recipes for all cuisines available online or in books these days (they weren’t as accessible 30 years ago), you can have a great meal at home.
So, why do we love going out for a meal? Of course, it’s great to not have to worry about cooking – but then Menulog and Ubereats make it pretty easy to get home delivered food within a very reasonable time frame so it’s not only that. It’s the experience that we crave more than anything. Escaping our normal habitats and being waited on by well-dressed staff in a well-decorated space. We like being made to feel special.
If it’s the experience we crave, then it is, of course, a nice idea to want to share that with our special little additions to the family. However, will your toddler have an enjoyable experience too? Having a small child shouldn’t hold you back from a good meal at a restaurant, but you should also consider if your child will have an enjoyable time.
Keep It At One Course
Until your little one gets a bit older and you feel they are ready to take them out into the world of fine dining – skip the entrees to begin with. We all have restrictions on the amount of time we can stay well-behaved in a sitting. For toddlers, this time-frame is exceptionally short. So, order quickly, even just as you are being seated, so that you can all enjoy the food you’ve come out to enjoy, and keep it at one course so you aren’t waiting for multiple plates to come out at half-hour or longer intervals. Of course there is always time for desert though.
Take a Pram
Depending what time you might be arriving at the restaurant, most dining experiences will stretch out past the average toddler’s bedtime. So even though the restaurant staff might be in a bother about having to find the space for your pram or twin pram to fit in next to the table, providing your child with a place to sleep once they have a full belly is essential. This will also allow you and your partner the time to enjoy a glass of wine or two in peace and quiet.
Pack Some Distractions
Phones make life easier these days, but they can be noisy so bring headphones too. One thing that will really annoy your fellow diners at a restaurant is if your child is sitting there playing those irritating laptop games that all toddlers are given by their less considerate relatives. Or if they are watching Peppa Pig at full volume. Stick with low-tech solutions in a little activity pack so they can entertain themselves while the adults talk about boring adult stuff. Coloured pencils and paper are always great, but bring a variety of activities so that you can bring out the various options as your little one grows more and more agitated.
This is perhaps most important – before you leave home, take the time to explain to your toddler what will be expected of them in this restaurant. Tell them they can’t run around and shout and scream but they will have lots of nice food and it’s a special occasion for mum and dad. This allows you the simple ‘now what did we talk about’ line when they are getting out of control. Treat your child like a competent human being who can control their behaviour because they are (most of the time… sometimes).
Make sure that whatever you do, you keep in mind your child’s own enjoyment as well as your own. And be considerate of other diners. Everyone is paying a lot of money and is expecting a nice evening out. Small children running around screaming can ruin that experience, so just be mindful of others. At the same time, don’t let anyone make you feel like you shouldn’t be there.