Minnie Mama's Blog

Restaurant Survival with a Toddler

Posted on: November 6, 2010

For those of you with children then you understand the title of this post, all too well I am guessing. But for those of you with no children or little ones who still sit there peacefully cooing, teething on the bread, or if you’re wicked lucky sleeping while you enjoy every scrumptious bite of your meal and carry on actual adult conversation then let this serve as your official warning: ENJOY IT NOW WHILE YOU STILL CAN! Yes, that’s right sweetheart, enjoy it now because at any given moment it could all come to an end.

Now you may be saying to yourself  we always take Little Suzy out to dinner and she’s so well-behaved. Minnie Mama must not have been taking Isabella out to restaurants since she was young so the poor child just doesn’t know how to act. Or maybe the little one was just tired so it’s really the parents’ fault for expecting too much. Well, trust me we have taken Isabella out to dinner since she was an infant, she wasn’t too tired, and she does have manners & knows how to act. However, she’s a toddler and at any given moment a toddler can turn on you, literally in our case as she smiles sweetly at us while planning her escape route under the restaurant table and through Planet Hollywood. Oh yes, my sweet little Princess Monkey Bum had ants in her pants the other night and she refused to sit in her chair. Fun, fun, fun. But instead of being one of those parents who yells at their child in public and upsets the child along with all of the other nearby diners, we choose to “entertain” Isabella in the hopes of keeping her, us, and everyone else happy. Some people may say it’s spoiling her and she needs to just learn to sit at the table like a big girl, but to us she’s still a little one and it’s our business, right?

So with that said, here’s some of Minnie Mama’s crucial tips  to help you and your family survive the restaurant experience:

  • If you’re dining out then it’s meal time and of course your little one is hungry too. We all know how we feel when we’re starving so imagine how it must feel when you’re little & don’t understand the whole waiting for a table (try to make advance reservations to speed this process up, if possible), waiting for the server, waiting for the food, waiting, waiting, waiting! Bring some light snacks & a drink to starve off the hunger and the tantrums. 
  • Most child friendly restaurants provide crayons & something to color on, but what if they don’t? And honestly how long can your child color on a kid’s menu? Consider bringing a couple new coloring books your child has never seen before as these will be like a special surprise and much more exciting than the usual ones they color on at home. Check out your local dollar store for a few cheap ones!
  • Bring a couple story books to read to your little one — again maybe a few new ones they’ve never heard before.  Consider packing a few special toys they can quietly play with at the table — Isabella loves little Disney figures or figgers as she calls them. They are small, easy to throw in the bag, and will keep her busy playing throughout the meal.  🙂
  • If you have a Smart Phone such as the Iphone download a few apps / games for your child to enjoy during your meal. Of course if you have a nice phone then consider purchasing a durable waterproof case for it as you never know if there will be a drink spill or a table drop, but sometimes it’s worth the risk. I have the IPhone and honestly there’s more apps on it for Isabella than myself — she loves it! She plays Peek-a-Boo Farm, Peek-a-Boo Wild, several learning games that teach her how to spell, count, shapes, etc. It can really be a fun and educational experience for your child! And of course if all else fails, there’s always Backyardigans, Dora, Diego, and other U-Tube videos available at just the touch of a finger.  🙂
  • While most likely any restaurant you choose to dine at w/ your fam will be child friendly, keep in mind that some are friendlier than others and if possible try to choose one geared towards your child. Yes, I understand you don’t want to eat at Chuck E. Cheese (neither do I!), but at the same time you can save that fancy Italian restaurant for a romantic date night w/ your spouse. As a happy compromise consider places like Rain Forest Cafe, T-Rex, a character dining restaurant such as Chef Mickey’s or Cinderella’s Castle (if in WDW), etc. — you get the idea! Or another great idea is a place that’s loud with lots of stuff to look at — this way your child will be distracted and none of the other diners will even notice if your child is loud. We always dine at Planet Hollywood as it’s perfect for everyone — we love the food & Isabella loves the cool decor, plus it’s loud so she can be somewhat loud within reason w/o us constantly saying shhhhh.
  • If you need to then take a walk around the restaurant with your child showing them the decor or even outside if they just need a breather. It’s alright if your food gets cold, it’s not your last meal so just take a deep breath and do what you need to do to calm them down so it doesn’t ruin the evening.
  • Bribery. Yes, I know it may not be the #1 tip from parents of year and they will say it’s spoiling, but it works. Trust me. Assuming your child is old enough to understand consequences then you will be amazed at how quietly they can sit at the table & color if there’s a special present waiting for them after dinner. I will admit it doesn’t always work, but it does sometimes and depending on your level of desperation you may wish to keep this trick up your sleeve for the ultimate emergency.
  • And if all else fails, ask for your dinner to go. Obviously it’s not the most sought after tip, but neither is listening to a screaming toddler which in the end only frustrates you, your spouse, and turns your evening into a big mess long after your child’s tantrum ended.

Alright so I am not sure if those tips will help you, but it’s what we do when trying to survive dining out w/ a toddler so hopefully even just a couple of them will help you.  🙂


2 Responses to "Restaurant Survival with a Toddler"

Great article! We have found it so helpful to take little walks when there’s a long wait and I always keep my purse stocked up on little activites/coloring books, crayons, and little toys for those emergency times. 🙂 And sometimes feeding your child a little snack beforetime like a cheese stick or a few crackers makes a difference since a hungry child equals a cranky child.

thank you for all that information very nice article

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