First things first…
Plan to eat around your toddlers, ‘awake’ time…plan to go when your toddler is at their peak of awakeness. For example, my toddler wakes from nap at 3:30pm, so we dine out by 5pm. Wating until too late in the evening can make for an exhausted and unhappy little toddler…hence the tantrums and ants in the pants syndrome.
Next, pick a casual eating environment…small and not crowded. Eat at times of the day when restaurants are not busy…crowds are not fun with toddlers!
Plan for the Trip:
Just like you plan for a road trip or trip to the store, pack for the jaunt to get grub. Pack a Restaurant friendly BAG!
Get a backpack or diaper bag, and fill it with supplies…
* coloring books and crayons
* mini blocks
* table games
Items that can distract a toddler during downtime. Also, make sure you have alternate favorite snacks, like goldfish, fruit snacks and juice.
Designate a Driver:
A table buddy is someone from your party, or multiple people, who go to the restaurant before the toddler and reserve the table and order the food. If you plan to eat by 5pm, then send the Table Buddy to the restaurant at 4:30pm.
Toddlers have an attention span of 10-30 minutes depending on how old they are…much of the waiting for a table and food is where you lose your toddler, and then meltdowns ensure.
Look on-line for menus and have the food ordered before the toddlers arrives…this will save you on precious time spent waiting for food.
Have an escape Plan and a getaway car:
If you have to walk out, make sure you do so immediately. Set the framework for your toddler. They need to know outbursts and bad behavior isn’t okay, but if there threshold has been reached then, leave the restaurant and take your food home.
With older toddlers, you should be able to walk out and explain why it’s not okay to do certain things, but with younger ones you just have to set a pattern of how things will work…
Repitition and consistency is key…if you keep trying you will prevail!
Pre-Dining Must Haves:
- be patient
- be calm
- Do NOT set your expectations TOO high.
- Don’t let yourself feel bad because your toddler can’t master the restaurant