Thursday, November 24, 2011

10 Secrets to Keeping Toddlers Happy at Restaurants

Out of control kids can ruin the dining experience of not only their parents, but everyone else in the restaurant. Unruly toddlers can put some parents under self-imposed house arrest, but this is not fair to them or their friends and family who want to include them in special outings. By planning ahead parents can make dining out with their young children a much more pleasant experience. Here are 10 secrets to keeping toddlers happy at restaurants.

  1. Timing – The first thing to keep in mind when planning a meal out with toddlers is timing. Try to schedule it so the food arrives as close to their regular meal times as possible. Kids who don’t get fed when they’re used to are going to get cranky.
  2. Not overtired – Another timing issue involves nap and bed times. Don’t take toddlers to restaurants during their regular nap time or keep them there past their regular bedtimes. Overtired children are going to get fussy and are not easily consoled with food or toys.
  3. Child friendly place – Pick a restaurant that is child friendly; preferably with a play area available. Trying to get a toddler to behave in a fine dining situation with linen tablecloths and china is going to be a losing battle and disruptive to the other patrons who are there for a pleasant meal. Call around to find which establishments are more suited to the younger set.
  4. Walk around – Toddlers won’t be content to be confined to a high chair for an extended period of time and will ultimately rebel. If there’s no play area for kids, parents should take turns walking around with them until the food arrives. This way they can burn off excess energy and be willing to stay put during the meal.
  5. Get child’s food early – It’s not a bad idea to have the waiter bring the toddler’s food early while the parents are having drinks. This way the kids can eat first and parents can enjoy their meal when it arrives. Once their tummies are full, children will be more content while to entertain themselves while the adults eat.
  6. Bring snacks – Restaurants aren’t going to mind if you bring some snacks along for toddlers to munch on. Give them some fun foods they can both play with and eat like animal crackers or colorful foods they can sort before they eat.
  7. Order food they’ll enjoy – Toddlers are going to be much more manageable if you get them food they’ll enjoy. Order things they don’t normally get at home so it’s a special treat and involve them in the choice. Let them know that if they behave they might even get some dessert.
  8. Toys – Always bring along some toys for toddlers to play with and entertain themselves. It helps to have a special bag of goodies they don’t get to play with at home. This makes it more interesting to them and may cut down on the number of times the toys need to be retrieved from the floor.
  9. Busy work – Keep little hands and minds busy with crayons, puzzles and other items on hand. A new sticker book or Play-Doh can keep a toddler entertained instead of disrupting other restaurant patrons.
  10. Play games – Parents can use this opportunity to play games with their toddlers and even make it educational. Have the kids work on their colors, learn new words or shapes. Even a container of artificial sweeteners can become a game by asking children about the shapes and different colors.
Parents should pack a special “eating out kit” for their toddlers and keep it in the car. By having snacks, toys and games handy they’ll be prepared for spur of the moment outings. Although parents can’t anticipate every problem, with a little trial and error, taking young children to restaurants doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience. Planning ahead and keeping a positive attitude can help toddlers earn smiles and compliments instead of scowls and complaints from the other customers in the vicinity.

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