Anyone else miss having a meal where you don’t have to talk someone off the ledge? This can often be dinner (or lunch or breakfast) with a toddler!
We love eating out, but we curbed it a ton when we had our kiddo. BabyCoolJ and I have a weekly breakfast playdate with his bestie. And now with our home on the market we get kicked out a lot and eat out 5+ a week since January.
Which means that I have this whole behaving while eating out down….well, not really. #toddlerlife! But, I can offer tips to make it an easier experience, especially with a lot of trial and error on our part!
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Here are seven helpful tips to survive eating out with your toddler:
Bring healthy snacks with you. It always keeps my kiddo calm to have something to munch on, especially cause he sees others eating. We try to keep it healthy and avoid the bread, so I always have a stash of his favorite snacks. Here are a few of our must have’s:
Ella’s Kitchen Nibbly Fingers
Sprout Organic Curlz Toddler Snacks
Ella’s Kitchen Organic Toddler Cookies
Ella’s Kitchen Crunchy Sticks
Natierra Nature’s Organic Freeze Dried Raspberries
I also DIY his own trail mix:
Little Duck Organics Tiny Freeze Dried Fruit (and this is his fav snack anytime and it’s my go-to if I don’t have any fresh fruit)
And our favorite snack container to put it in: Munchkin Stainless Steel Snack Catcher – this is an awesome one because it keeps everything mess-free and entertains him as he gets pieces out little by little.
Mentally prepare yourself for anything. I quickly learned that things will never go as planned. If my husband and I are prepared for anything, including packing up our food and leaving, it makes it so much easier to deal. It rarely happens, but we have had to leave twice. Sometimes we just have to take him to a bathroom or hallway and have some quite time so he can calm down. Talking to him always helps, and we are back at the table.
Dine alfresco when you have the choice. It is so much less stressful eating outdoors. He can be a little louder, make a little more mess and we can chat among ourselves in peace. This can be tricky in Texas, so we take full advantage in the Spring and Fall!
Bring along some special toys. These toys are “special” because he will only get them at a restaurant. They entertain him, are easy to wipe down and do not have multiple pieces. These are my go-to’s right now for a 2-year-old:
Mini Magnetic Drawing Board
Kingseye Water Painting Educational Graffiti Book
Barkley Dog Buckle Toy (I’ll be honest, I LOVE this for travel but I can’t take this to a restaurant cause I’m a germaphobe. Great option otherwise, it entertains for a long time!)
Quiet Book for Toddler’s
Ask for the bill as soon as you get your food. Seriously, I love a leisurely meal as much as the next guy, but if I have a toddler with me please don’t forget to check on us! Sometimes we wait for a full 10 minutes after we are done eating to ask for the bill, and that is when our kiddo loses it the most! We involve him in paying the bill (which he LOVES) and always get the bill early so we can leave when we are ready.
Explore seating arrangements for your kiddo. Even thought BabyCoolJ doesn’t sit in a high chair at home, we have learned he must be in a high chair at a restaurant. It contains him, gives him boundaries and it even keeps his voice down! When we have tried a booster he just goes nuts. Nope, high chair is staying for us!
And if you are finding yourself eating out a lot like us, go to a restaurant with built-in entertainment! My son loves a fun Hibachi experience and I bet yours will too! Lunch is a great option because it is cheaper and no one’s there for a romantic date.
Do you have any other tips to add? I’d love to hear them!
16 thoughts on “How to survive eating out with your toddler”
If you don’t have snacks with you some restraunts offer a snack plate (BJs brewery, cheddars, Texas Roadhouse) that will come for kids with things like fruit, veggie sticks or something like that. Most places offer it for free too.
What?!!! Alicia, how did I not know this! I usually ask for fruit to come out first but so many places don’t have fruit as a side. Thanks for the tip friend!
That’s a great idea to ask for the check when food arrives. It can take AGES to get the check!
Also a lot of parents bring electronic devices, but I feel like it is a crutch for “good behavior”. We went to a nice place for our 10 year anniversary and I felt like I was back at home because the kids behind our seat had their ipads blasting with game music – it was awful!
I honestly didn’t eat out very often when the kids were younger. Too stressful and it wasn’t fun for anyone. We did stick to places that were more cafeteria style and more casual, like Moe’s, Chipotle, Brueggers, etc.
We’ve been so good about screen time and he watches PBS minimally after he turned two. He has no idea that our cell phones can play videos, and I’m keeping it that way as long as possible! I want him to be a part of our experience, but the snacks and toys help when things aren’t going smoothly 🙂
Oh man, eating out with our toddler can be a zoo! I love your idea of asking for the check once your meal has arrived. Will have to do that next time!
Mine is not easily distracted by snacks and toys. Sometimes I just think we shouldn’t go out, but we have two older kids who like to eat out sometimes AND I think these little ones need to learn how to behave in public.
We do try to eat earlier in the evening when the restaurant is less crowded. Like you said, you have to be prepared for anything!
The struggle is real! I can’t imagine doing it with more than one. Eating earlier than the rush is another great tip, always helps us too.
These are great ideas. Eating out with our 3 and 5 year old is the absolute worst. We have tried toys, but I’m going to look into the snacks. We often go or for brunch on Sundays, it the wait is always crazy long and they are usually spent by the time we get our food.
Healthy snacks are always a win for us, it’s our number one way to enjoy a meal! Hope it works for you too!
Eating out with a toddler is tough. I remember having to eat in shifts, my husband would eat quick while I held my son and them we would switch. We also had to take everything to go and sometimes I would make a head start to the car while my husband paid the bill. It does get easier and one day you will have a meal and have any toddler drama!
It can definitely be that bad! We try so hard to keep it chill with these tips.
Some great tips! It’s all about being prepared and planning ahead of time. Thanks for your insights!
Thanks, Brittany! Planning helps a ton.
Great article! I always have to remind my husband to mentally prepare before we take our 2 year old to a restaurant! It’s getting better with age though!
For sure, mentally preparing is the perfect first step. And I agree, we have waves but overall better!
Lol as I’m reading your post I’m imagining my toddler at my other son’s orthodontist appointment yesterday. He ran all over the place and screamed. Toddlers are exhausting! And these are great tips.
Ha, totally! And I think a few of these can be used at all kinds of places…their energy never ends (especially boys!).