Don't wave goodbye to the days of long, languid dinners, with Mrs ATWWAH's tips a family meal can go from food fright to great night.
Every once in a while, book a babysitter and have a toddler free meal.
The inspiration for my blog, aroundtheworldwithahighchair.com, came about after taking our son’s highchair to France with us. True story. When you become a parent logic escapes you, as I'm sure you know. Not only could we probably have managed without it, some French restaurants had highchairs (although not all) but we could have just taken a portable one.
Eating out with babies and toddlers can be stressful and enough (without lugging your own highchair around) to make you wonder why you bothered booking in the first place. Hopefully the following tips will help to make the experience that bit more pleasurable. And, who knows, you may even get through all three courses.
Newborns are generally easier to take to restaurants as if they have been fed and changed they tend to just sleep or gurgle. This is why you often see parents of newborns smugly ordering a second glass (bottle) of wine, while parents of toddlers are handcuffing their offspring to the table and cleaning the mess (while thinking ‘you just wait’!).
Always pack snacks you know they will eat: rice cakes, fruit and biscuits, for example. These come in useful if the kids are being picky but also if the service is a bit slow. Pop a couple of cartons of juice in the bag - as these generally mean less mess than drinking from an open cup - or take a bottle of water to dilute juice down
Have a couple of favourite books or colouring pads handy with crayons. Most restaurants now offer something to keep toddlers amused but it’s always good to have your own.
Keep a set of toddler cutlery in their bag as it’s surprising how many restaurants don’t offer this, especially abroad.
Don’t stress too much about going for the healthy options. If you give your toddler a choice from the menu, go with their answer - you can always pop some of your own veg on their plate as they are eating. Talk to your toddler about what they can see and the food you’ve ordered. I always try to get a table near the kitchen so Master ATWWAH can see the chefs and watch what is going on.
Always take a spare pair of clothes and, for as long as your toddler will wear them, put a bib on to avoid lots of changes.
Don’t take them out for meals when you know they are likely to be tired. It’s tempting to eat later than usual on holiday but it’s not worth it when they are nodding off at the table or worse, having a meltdown.
As you tend to eat out more on holiday, it’s good to mix things up a bit so toddlers aren’t expected to sit down for every meal. Breakfast buffets can be fascinating for a toddler, and you can try a picnic at lunchtime so you are not confined to a restaurant (and it doesn’t matter so much if mess is made). Or, depending on where you are, go for street food options, where you can sit on a bench watching the world go by and eat finger food.