I love going out to eat. It saves me from making a meal and the food is usually things I wouldn’t think to make on my own accord. On the downside, going out to eat with two toddlers usually doesn’t end well, for anyone. I refused to be that mom that locks herself into her house the first 3 years of her child’s life to be able to avoid conflicts in public. I can proudly report that we haven’t had a public dinner melt down in months! (knock on wood!)
Do yourself a favor and bring some toys. I promise you won’t regret it. Our favorites are cars, crayons & magnadoodles! I found some cheapy $5 ones and they are small enough to fit into a diaper bag or the diaper bag purse you probably carry, just like me. Hot-wheels cars are nice and quiet and also small. Most places will provide you with crayons however I just bring a few of my own to make sure they get them. We also have special apps on our phones for each kid to play with. It makes a GREAT back up plan if they decide they are done playing quietly. It gets them to slow down and focus on the phone. You can find ALL kinds of kid friendly apps for all ages. If you have older kids: grab some trivia cards! We used to LOVE doing them as kids and they are a great way for your family to interact and still get that family dinner feel at a restaurant. Laminated doodle pads are great too! Our kids love to be able to write on their activity cards and we can wipe them off and try again. I found erasable activity cards at my local department store for a few bucks. If all else fails, go with old standby’s of tic tac toe, old maid and go fish!
Always bring snacks. I try to bring healthy small things. I like fruit leather it’s healthy but not messy like fresh fruit can be. We also like to bring cereal, again not messy and easy to eat at the table. I try to bring our own sippy cups so there is no mess making with unfamiliar cups. Often times restaurants don’t have kid version of silverware (NO idea why!) and both my children are absolutely set on using silverware. I will often bring some of our own so they always have some to use if they choose. They also make these great travel place mats that are sticky. You stick them down on the table and they make it great for kiddos to eat off of and you know it’s a clean surface (it also makes your table not look so icky for your poor server to have to clean up!).
We always ask them to split our kids meal up; we’ve never ordered two and yet always have two plates worth! It’s never failed us yet. Just ask your server when you order it if they can please split it and then we usually ask for an extra side dish. It works out well and saves us from having left over that will sit at the back of the fridge and get moldy. If you know you’re ordering something that will take longer too cook it’s often times easier if you ask them to bring your child’s dish before yours. That however leaves the problem of them being done long before you are and still having to sit. Often times if our kids are good we let them order a small desert ( a lot of places have fun little taster that are small portions of their favorites or just a small scoop of ice cream will do too!) and munch on that while we finish our meals.
Always try to dine early. Our kids are usually in bed about 7:30 so doing a 6:30 dinner doesn’t often end well. We end up with tired screaming kids! We always head for dinner about 5 pm and that also usually ensures we don’t have to deal with the dinner crowds. In the event a melt down is unavoidable try the restroom get away! Sometimes changing the scenery for a kid is all they need. Take them into the washroom play with the water for a minute or so, let them work through their tantrum in the peace of the bathroom (a restaurant is not a place I would suggest using the “ignore the tantrum” method..). Worst case, ask for a togo box and have your meal packed and finish in the quiet of your own home.