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Before I became a parent, I swore that if I had kids, they would NEVER cause a ruckus in a restaurant. (Yeah… I know… I was one of THOSE people, and all of us parents are rolling their eyes at my naivety.)
I figured that somehow, I would be able to control my kids and they’d behave perfectly when out in public, never causing a scene and never drawing negative attention to us.
I also wanted to be the kind of parent who continued to go out and do things, rather than let parenthood make them never want to leave the house.
Now, I’m a parent of a lively, busy toddler boy. He’s sweet but he’s also feisty, and he’s not afraid to make his wishes known. Now, I understand not only what being on the other side of those restaurant meltdowns is like, but I get the appeal sometimes, of not wanting to leave the house.
In all sincerity though, I do enjoy going out to eat at restaurants, and I do want to expose Raleigh to a variety of places and experiences. Even though it’s often far from easy, it’s important to me to put in the effort to make these things happen.
Mom Hacks for Taking a Baby to a Restaurant
I’ve found that eating out at a restaurant with a baby is often a multiple phase event. Here are my tips for how to survive a restaurant meal with a baby:
Phase 1: You’re at a new place, and you have an easy-going baby!
Usually, the first part is the easiest. My son Raleigh is interested in the new location, wants to look at things on the table, and is usually pretty hungry too.
Tip 1 – Put in your order as fast as you can.
Tip 2 – Bring snacks while you wait for food. I carry a container of Cheerios in my diaper bag, and I often have granola bars or crackers for Raleigh too. I try to kill time between ordering and when the food comes with some snacks and water.
Tip 3 – Offer crayons if they’re interested in that, books (one at a time) and other small toys from your diaper bag. If things are hitting the fan, I’m not ashamed to pull out an iPhone if needed and play a kid friendly video in exchange for some peace and quiet!
Phase 2 : Baby’s a little bit antsy, and getting hungry.
Tip 4 – Feed them and eat too!
Phase 3: Baby’s over it, and can’t be distracted any longer.
This is usually a little later in the meal, but it can happen at any point. It often happens after the meal is over, while you’re waiting to pay the bill and settle up. Just like with ordering fast, it is helpful to pay quickly too.
Tip 5 – Get up and walk around with them if they’re really struggling. Sometimes, a change of scenery is all they need to get a second wind to make it to the end of your meal.
Tip 6 – (This one is optional.) We like to pick up the bits of food that are inevitably strewn across the floor around the high chair, and help gather everything into the middle of the table. It helps us feel a little less embarrassed about the havoc we’ve just wrecked on the restaurant! The last time I did this, I had two different serves/managers stop me and say “Thank You.” I’m sure they appreciate the help, especially during really busy meal times.
Phase 4 – Get outta there! You did it!
Tip 7 – This one is the most important. Even though it’s hard, DO IT ANYWAY!
It’s tempting to want to wait until your kids are “older and better behaved” before you taking a baby to a restaurant.
But here’s the truth: even older kids act up. And your child will never learn how to act in public if they’re never given the chance to BE in public.
Besides, it’s only the naive people who don’t have kids who pass judgement. Anyone who has kids is going to be giving you sympathetic looks and invisible fist bumps, sending vibes your way that say, “YOU GOT THIS! I’ve been there.”
By being prepared, and anticipating the different phases of a restaurant meal, you can help ward off any major catastrophes and hopefully enjoy your meal out at the restaurant!