The Ultimate Guide to Eating Out with Your Toddler

Are you feeling overwhelmed at the thought of dining out with your toddler? Here are some tips from experienced parents that can help make the experience easier and more enjoyable.

Who has not had a full toddler meltdown in the public arena while people are trying to enjoy a meal? In
this setting, we are more likely to bargain, coax and get out the iPad to keep the peace. But what if
there were a few strategies that would help you to maintain a tantrum-free environment and avoid
those parenting traps born out of sheer desperation? Take it from MOC. We took 8 kids out in public and
had some great times and a few misfires. Here is an excerpt from the Toddler Book with a few helpful
tips for stress-free eating out with your toddler (mostly – everyone has their days).

Toddlers have about a 10-15 minute mealtime tolerance window. So we do not expect them to sit
indefinitely while we enjoy long conversation and two cups of coffee. We can, however, make going out
to eat a more enjoyable experience. Children want to know what you expect and what will happen.
Some misbehavior is because they have no idea how long this may last, so they want out immediately.

What to say when eating out with your toddler:

Prior to going into the restaurant, while you are still in the car

  • “We are going in to eat. Here is what will happen, we will sit at the table, and you can play with your toy/book.”
  • Then we order our food, and just before the food comes, we will take a little walk.
  • Then the food comes, and we eat, and when we are done, you can play some more, and we will leave.
  • Don’t forget our household rules apply here.
  • “We love going out together as a family.” (You set the atmosphere.)

During the meal

  • “We use our sweet voice in the restaurant.”
  • “You are doing a great job with the coloring.”
  • “We will get a field trip in a few minutes.”
  • “Let’s go outide to see the plants.”
  • “Time to go potty.” (bring the wipes)
  • “Our food is here! Let’s eat.”

What to do when dining out with your toddler

  • Go to a family-friendly restaurant
  • Ask the waiter to let you know a few minutes before the food is supposed to arrive.
  • Let things follow the plan that you state in the “what to say” section above.
  • Right before the food comes, take your child for a little walk. You can go to the potty, you can go outside and look at the shrubs, or you can take a little tour and show your toddler: where you go to pay, what door the waiters go thru to get the food and point out interesting things like light fixtures or wall art. No free-roaming.
  • Then go back to your seat and finish your mealtime.
  • When the food arrives, ask for the check.
  • Remember that toddlers will not tolerate endless conversation. So if you want to go out for a long discussion and several cups of coffee, get a babysitter.
  • We simply do the best we can to put these boundaries in place.

Look at the MOC Toddler Book for all the tips that make life with a toddler a little easier. And
remember, you set the atmosphere, and you will have some great mealtimes and misfires, but you get to experience that together as a family. You are in this together.