Eating at Restaurants With Your Preschooler

While sitting down to a home-cooked meal is a wonderful experience for families to share, sometimes it can also be a treat to take a break from the kitchen and enjoy a meal in a restaurant. For families with young children, this might seem like an impossible task, but these tips can help you successfully eat at restaurants with your toddler or preschooler.

Teach your child how to behave in public

Many parents feel anxiety over the possibility of their preschooler being loud or misbehaving in a restaurant. However, you can begin to teach your preschooler good public behavior now. Show general respect for others, help your child practice being patient, teach age-appropriate table manners such as not shouting or throwing food, and praise good public behavior.

Set expectations for behavior

Restaurants are an exciting and stimulating environment for a young child, particularly if they do not visit many of them. They may want to investigate everything, and can become frustrated when they can’t. Remind them about the good public manners they’ve been learning, and enforce those rules once at the restaurant. For example, if your preschooler is making noise with their fork and spoon, remind them calmly that that is not one of the rules they promised to follow. Remember that enforcing these rules may mean removing your child from the restaurant temporarily until they are ready to try again.

Do your restaurant research

Before having children, it may have been easy to eat a meal in nearly any restaurant. However, not all restaurants are ideal for families with young children. It’s advisable to investigate some restaurants beforehand to ensure that they have high chairs or booster seats available, there is a kid’s menu, there is room for a stroller if necessary, there is enough space for everyone to sit and move comfortably, and there is an area to change a diaper. This may seem like a lot of work for one meal, but preparation will help the outing go smoothly.

Choose the best time

Visiting a restaurant with a tired toddler or preschooler will invariably mean that the experience will not go well. Along the same lines, a restaurant at peak lunch or dinner periods will be a noisy, busy environment that may work against you. Choosing the best time to visit a restaurant will ensure that your child is well-rested and happy, your daily routine will remain intact, and the restaurant will be calmer.

Order your child’s food first

Parents of toddlers and preschoolers are well aware of the effect of meals and snacks on their child’s happiness. To that end, it’s often a good idea to have a quick scan of the kid’s menu as soon as you sit down at your table, and order your child’s food as soon as you can. The restaurant may also be able to bring out bread or crackers for you while you wait. This will help to prevent frustrated and hungry meltdowns.

Be considerate

Modeling good behavior is critical for young children, and visiting a restaurant is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate proper behavior in public. Make sure your child sees you being kind and thankful to the restaurant staff and other diners, and cleaning up any small messes that your child may have made on and under the table.

With preparation and patience, you can successfully enjoy a meal outside the home with the whole family, and create fond memories.