We dine out fairly often and the Little Monkey tags along with us, it’s just one of the luxuries of living downtown and having friends visit often. Do we have tips and tricks for dining out with a toddler? Of course we do! Her first restaurant visit was when she was 15 days old and yes we did hit up an all you can eat spot because I was craving my Sushi! Over the last 19 months she’s dined out in over 17 cities around the world, from hole in the walls to buffets to swanky hot spots, she’s covered it all. The questions I get are “How do you do it? How do you take her out and deal with the tantrums? What about the stink eye? Don’t you just give up?”
To be honest, up until she was about a year, things were easy. We’d work around her sleep schedule and have her sleep in the pram or car seat while we enjoyed our meal or have her awake on our laps as we ate. As she started eating and being able to sit up we entertained with finger food and toys. At the one year mark things got a bit tough because she wanted to walk around and explore so we did our best to entertain her and if she threw a hissy fit would march her outside to calm down away from the fine folks looking to enjoy their meals. I’d say that about 90% of the time she was fantastic. Encouraging smiles from strangers and a diaper bag filled with books and food to entertain her would keep her satisfied.
In the past month or so we’ve encountered yet another roadblock. On two occasions she had a complete melt down and in all fairness, one was completely our fault. Our dire need to scope out a restaurant meant that it took us three hours on public transportation to get to the destination (we got lost e.t.c. e.t.c) and missed her afternoon nap. Starting to dine at 9 p.m with an extremely tired toddler was just asking for trouble. Halfway through the meal she burst out crying and nothing would calm her down. We sucked it up, gobbled our food and tried to run out as fast as possible. It happens and if you’re lucky, you’re the only ones at the restaurant (no it wasn’t the one we wanted to dine at, they had closed by the time we got there!) so you can play deaf while the poor wait staff shudder in the corner listening to the shrieking child and oblivious parents. Never go back to that spot. Your food will surely be poisoned!
The second occasion and I’m starting to notice this more and more is her need to climb any set of stairs she sees. I never noticed stairs at restaurants but now I do because I’m trying my best to avoid them like the plague. All she wants to do is climb up and down, on her own. She doesn’t care that it’s a main throughway for piping hot dishes out of the kitchen or that she’s annoying the hell out of the servers. Nopes.. just up and down .. up and down. The first time this happened I refused to let her near the steps which meant a whole lot of whining. Loud, painful, exhausting whining . Clearly this didn’t work. Just frustrated everyone involved and those watching us. I now avoid restaurants with stairs or try to visit them during off hours so that she’s not in anyone’s way. Small sacrifice but luckily there’s plenty of other spots on my “must dine at list”.
Dining out with a toddler isn’t easy but it’s something we do in the hopes that she picks up etiquette cues and because we don’t want to change our lives. We enjoy dining out and don’t plan on changing that because of the newest family member. Bringing entertainment, offering her small pleasures (ice cubes, spoons, salt and pepper shakers, books, bread, phone) to pass the time between ordering and food arriving is what works best for us. Distraction. Once the food arrives a bowl of soup or noddles is guaranteed to keep her quiet. Order wisely. Soon 3 will become 4 and I’m sure that will come with a new set of challenges. Fingers crossed that the Little Monkey is bona fide dining out toddler by the time October rolls around!