Today for the #AtoZBLoggingChallenge I chose to write about Restaurants and eating out with Toddlers. The real list.
Why the real list? I’ve read a lot of blog posts and articles on parenting websites about eating out with kids and I am, as a parent, somewhat appalled when the lists suggest things like visit at odd hours, don’t take the kids or shove an iPad in their face and its your job to make them behave. I know kids will be kids, sometimes they will disrupt the peace but let’s not talk about them as if they were a PITA. Those lists have definitely not been made by parents, I am sure.
We love eating out at restaurants and there was a time (yes, was) when we would try out every new restaurant in town. Post baby, we haven’t gotten around to doing so much of that, because we play by babyT’s sleep and nap schedules. But we did holiday when he was around 8 months old and now we are back to eating out often (even dinners, hurray)
So here is my list.
- Call ahead & check if the restaurant allows kids – Yes there are those restaurants which do not encourage kids to show up. Assuming you will call up to make a reservation, such places will tell you upfront that they have a ‘no kids’ policy. Apart from shaming that restaurant on your social media and not visiting you will have little else to do. But in my experience even a very famous Michelin star restaurant here in Mumbai, has bent the rules and you can now find kids running around the place. So its obvious who won in the cash registers ring versus the silly ‘no kids’ policy.
- Time – Do go at a time when baby. toddler is within his comfort zone. Read he has: napped, rested, pooped for the day. We have been lucky that babyT usually naps in the car on our way to anywhere, so we arrive at the restaurant a little fresh.
- Facilities for kids – Having access to a high chair is good but not mandatory. I am highly finicky about high chair hygiene and find that most restaurant high chairs are ill cared for. I mostly always find crumbs and grease stains. Do also carry sanitiser liquid or wipes to clean the high chair. It can be a veritable breeding ground for germs.
We usually give the high chair a miss and choose for comfortable seating where babyT can squeeze in next to me and breastfeed if he likes to. Sofa seating is usually good for this.
- Order their food first – My main mandate to our host at the restaurant is to fetch something for babyT to eat first and fast. BabyT is very clear that he wants to eat once he enters a restaurant and does not care for browsing a menu and ordering and waiting for it to arrive in a four course meal format. He needs to eat, pronto. So there is usually a scramble to bring him olives, house bread or just some cut fruit.
I do then order something sizeable for him to eat. We usually ask for hot, boiled veggies or well grilled & freshly cooked meats like fish, chicken. These are pretty safe to eat if served hot and fresh. He also dips into our plates for nibbles and we order similar foods which he can eat safely.
- Keep breakables away – Babies and toddlers have no sense of right and wrong. If you keep glasses and plates and cutlery within their reach, it may happen that they topple things over and break them. More for their own safety, keep breakables away from their reach.
- Carry water – I don’t boil babyT’s water anymore, he has water which has been filtered from the water purifier at home. However I do not want to risk giving him water from the restaurant and from their bottles too. It’s very easy to get water borne diseases and bad stomachs from it. Also I don’t give him mineral water, his body doesn’t really water fortified with added minerals. So its best to take water from home, in the sipper that baby is used to drinking from.
- Take along their entertainment – Carry crayons & a book, small sized toys or even a book they love. Finding comfort in a new place will naturally calm them down and throw less tantrums. Walk around with them, let them see the bright lights, decor, paintings. BabyT really looks forward to restaurant visits now, because of all the sight seeing he gets to do in daddy’s arms. Take turns with your partner to do this, so that both of you can enjoy a bite in peace and before it gets cold. As a last resort, turn YouTube on. I hate doing this, but once again if a familiar song or rhyme can mean that I don’t get to skip dessert then so be it.
- Carry a change of clothes – carry extra clothes, diapers and lots of wipes to clean up spills. Accidental spills can happen with anyone and more so with babies so these do come in handy. And you can never have enough wipes when you are out with baby – cloth or disposable, whatever suits you. I also have found that carrying along socks and a smallish blankie comes in handy in case they fall asleep and the AC is on at full blast in the restaurant.
- Don’t stress – Make the experience as enjoyable for them as it is for you. Let them understand that eating out is for fun and not because you need nourishment in order to exist. Let them savour the decor, the food, the music. Appeal to their senses. For older babies, explain what they are eating, show them how yummy it is. Use every opportunity to show them a new experience.
As for you, eat at leisure, take your time to enjoy and savour the meal. No one is going to ask you to vacate your table. As I said earlier take turns looking after baby maybe so that both you and your partner can actually relish a warm meal.
- However experience is the best teacher – We celebrated our anniversary this week and the three of us went out to a rather fancy Italian restaurant. We came back with the realization that if you are celebrating something special and want some couple time, get grandparents to chip in with baby duties. Its no sin to take time away from baby to enjoy some husband-wife time.
And its the weekend. I do hope some of these tips inspire you to consider going out with your tots and enjoying a meal. Let me know how it went. What other tips will you add to this?