Dining out without the stress 

Maybe it’s a special occasion, or maybe you realized an hour before dinner that you forgot to plug in your slow cooker (we’ve all done it!). Now, you’re off to a restaurant with your toddler, and your fingers are crossed that the meal doesn’t go sour.

While having someone else cook and clean up sounds great, parents often panic about taking their toddlers out to eat. Children this age can act and react in unpredictable ways, and it’s normal for parents to worry their little ones may misbehave, creating unpleasant dining experiences for other guests.

The good news is that kid-friendly restaurants do exist, and that doesn’t mean you have to choose one with a cuddly animal mascot to keep Baby happy. With a little prep work, your restaurant outing can be a delight.
  • Look over the menu: The first few minutes in a restaurant with Baby may feel like a frenzy and, chances are, you’ll want to place their meal order with your drink order to keep them occupied and happy, so don’t wait until you get to the restaurant to give the menu a first look. Most restaurants post their menus online, which allows you to give it a once-over before heading out, which also gives you the chance to make sure there’s something on the menu Baby will actually enjoy. Many restaurants have children’s menus, but if not, at least be sure there are kid-friendly options Baby will eat on the regular menu. If not, it’s best to continue your search.
  • Call ahead: Phone the restaurant before you leave home to see if they allow you to call ahead and make a reservation, which could eliminate your wait time, since most toddlers aren’t happy to sit patiently in the lobby until a table is ready. During this time, you can confirm discuss kid-friendly accommodations with the hostess, like high chairs or even stroller check-in locations.
  • Consider the environment: Dining out with a toddler doesn’t mean the restaurant has to include amusement rides and balloons, but use your judgment when deciding if the establishment is truly a good fit. If it’s a quiet, intimate environment, you’ll probably stick out like a sore thumb if Baby decides to throw a fit over the lack of crayons. Choosing a more boisterous atmosphere where you’ll be in the company of other families is the better option.
  • Location, location, location: This one is a biggie. When picking a restaurant, it’s important to make sure the location is a good fit. If you’re eating at your regular dinner time, be sure the commute home won’t spill into Baby’s bedtime, which could make for a grumpy ride. Also, check that parking near the restaurant is available. It’s not easy to walk a far distance with a toddler in tow.
Everyone deserves a night out, and there’s no better company than your little one. Plan ahead, pack some distractions, and use your judgment if you think it’s time to call it a night. If it doesn’t go as well as you might have wanted it to, you can always make it up to the server with a big tip, and you and Baby can try again next time.
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