Do you regularly dine out with your toddler? We do that regularly and here are a few interesting observations regarding toddler behaviour and 9 tips for dining out with your toddler:

Dining out – In earlier days,  whenever we dined out, I would carry a packet of biscuits/theplas for my toddler, but now I have stopped doing it. I have learnt that whatever comes, my little daughter will not stay hungry. She will eat something or the other to fill her tummy.

Toddlers know when to stop – If they shake their head, you need to realise that either they are full (and don’t want to eat more) or they don’t like to eat that particular dish. So better refrain from force-feeding them which makes them shy away from eating altogether.

Food stains – One problem I regularly face with my daughter is her reluctance to wear a bib/napkin. Though she is not a messy eater, food has this uncanny attraction for new/rich clothes. I have learnt some tips for food stains cleaning on clothes which mostly work. I came home and immediately washed the area.

Washroom visits – A mother’s life is never simple, I need to take her to the washroom. Though I make her wear a diaper whenever we step out, she refuses to pee in it. I know it’s a good sign but not very convenient when you are out. I will tell you why. My daughter will use a washroom only when there’s her little pink potty seat around. Now do you see my problem? Is it convenient to tag her potty seat along wherever I go? So I have to be a little imaginative while making her use the washroom.

Restless syndrome – Once she is through eating and bored of interacting with the same people, she realised she needs a change of scene and faces. So she starts visiting other tables in the vicinity. Strangers eating or talking would look at her cute doll face and smile encouragingly, talk to her a little or some would just look around concernedly to confirm if the child’s not lost and heave a sigh of relief on catching my protective eye.

Accepting food from strangers – Once while dining out, a lady offered a small bar of chocolate to my daughter. In spite of my repeated teachings not to take stuff from strangers, she grabbed the chocolate and came running back to me. These are the times when I feel awkward and seriously feel that my toddler restaurant behaviour lacks a lot. Should I have just smiled at the chocolate lady in appreciation or should I have frowned at her for giving chocolate to my daughter? Of course, I chose to do the former. And I also sent my daughter back to her to voice her ‘thank you’ which she had so conveniently forgotten the first time.

These are 9 tips for dining out with your toddler:

  • Dal, roti and subzi are good and nutritious diet for a child. But don’t make it mandatory for your kid to have them every day. When you eat out (if once in a while), make your child eat with you too. This way, she learns to explore and appreciate different types of foods and cuisines and fortifies her belly. But avoid giving her uncooked foods like raw salads etc.
  • If eating out with family/friends, try to feed your child yourself. But if any other member volunteers, don’t hesitate to take up on the offer. It will not only give you a much needed break but also give that person the joy of feeding a small child.
  • Let your child wander a little (of course within your eyesight) and talk to strangers. There’s no harm and this way your child becomes social and interactive.
  • Be a little sceptical about letting your child eat something offered by a stranger.
  • Take a change of clothes for extreme situations. As soon as you return home, wash the stained area off your child’s clothing. Most of the food stains go away easily with immediate wash. For turmeric stains, pour a few drops of lemon juice on them and keep overnight. For oil stains, dust a little talcum powder and let it rest for a while. In worse scenario, you will have to give it for laundry. Well, that’s the price for eating out sometimes.
  • How to keep a toddler busy at the restaurant? Carry a smartphone with 3G/games, iPad to keep your child busy for some time. It mostly works; your child will let you eat in peace.
  • Always carry water from home for your child or order a packaged water bottle. Also, carry some wet wipes to clear the mess your child might have made. Keep in mind to tip the waiter extra.
  • It’s a good thing to remind your toddler of her table manners but relax if she forgets them. Don’t yell at her. She is small after all and sock everybody who judge parents by the way their kids eat.
  • Family restaurants are where kids can shout, yell or cry and nobody dare stare at you. So prefer eating out in family restaurants or kid friendly restaurants.

Have a pleasant dining experience the next time you dine out with your toddler!