One of my favorite things to do with my son is go on mommy baby dates. We usually take a nice walk, stop by the park, and head to a restaurant where food on the floor and the potential meltdown are acceptable. It’s great to introduce kids to a restaurant atmosphere so they begin to learn appropriate table behavior, plus it’s a nice treat to let someone else do the cooking (and the pouring…). The best part though, if all goes according to plan, is being able to interact with each other in a relaxing environment without the distraction of cooking/cleaning/chasing/chasing/chasing.
Taking your baby or toddler to a restaurant can be a total disaster (even with the best planning!), but my handsome date has taught me a few tricks to keep up my sleeves so we both enjoy our time:
- Scout the menu: Check out the restaurant’s menu ahead of time to make sure they have kid-friendly options, and something your child will be interested in eating. It doesn’t hurt to pick out your order too just to speed things along when you get there.
- Go hungry, but not starving: If baby’s not hungry, you can guess you won’t be eating either. Keep on baby’s schedule so mealtime doesn’t come too soon, or too late.
- Bring appetizers: You’ve arrived at your table. You’ve ordered your food and are sipping your wine. Baby’s adjusted to it’s surroundings and has realized it’s restrained in a high chair. Baby’s unhappy. Baby yells. The toys you brought aren’t working. You’re getting the judgey eyes from other diners. Check please! <– Don’t let this be you! Bring a little appetizer that baby can munch on while waiting for your meal. I’ve broken up crackers into embarrassingly small bites just to keep my son occupied at the table until our food arrived.
- Wipe down the table: Ok, this is more hygiene than behavior. My child eats rocks pretty regularly, so I have a pretty high tolerance for the dirt he ingests. Although, if you give your table a quick clean with a baby wipe and see the color of that wipe when you’re done, the image will never leave your mind.
- Bring a leash: If you brought toys, they will end up on the floor. Sippy cup? Floor. Food? Definitely floor. Keep items at arms reach by bringing tools like this awesome sippy cup/bottle leash (which also works great in a stroller), or these rings which link together to keep toys off the ground and are soothing for a teething baby to chew on. Some high chair covers like this one have little hooks included (and this one works as a shopping cart cover too).
- Ask to pay the bill when your food arrives: This way, if things start to go awry, you can take off whenever you need to and not worry about waiting on the staff.
- When in doubt, go for bread: If the mood is escalating quickly but you’re not quite ready to dine and dash, ask for some bread. It’s a quick item for the waiter to grab and kids typically like it (especially with some butter or cheese). The crunchier the crust, the more time it takes for those little nibbles to take it down!