We’ve been asked many times how we are able to dine out with Luna. To some parents, the concept seems unreal. How do you make a toddler sit while you enjoy a proper meal without tantrums or running around like mad?
Peter and I enjoy dining out and trying new restaurants. We’ve always done it before Luna was born and continue do so. The only difference now is we have a little one joining us with the fun. It’s not always easy. She’s a kid after all and tantrums/meltdowns are part of her life. But I think it’s the way it’s handled that will determine a good dinner out or a disaster night out. We’re pretty chill and don’t totally get stressed out when it happens. I think kids can sense how we feel. As long as we stay chill and attend to her needs and shift the focus to something much happier, then a smile suddenly appears and life is good again.
Here are some dining out tricks with a toddler that has worked for us:
1. Dine early. Come early before the crowd comes – 6pm is usually a good time as most people dine around 7:30-8. This is great especially for cozy little bistros or restaurants with large communal tables. You don’t feel so squished amongst other people and it gives room for a toddler to move around and stretch their legs when they need to. Also, servers aren’t busy yet and are able to attend to your needs.
2. Order a favourite drink. Luna’s favourite is apple juice. That keeps her happy & entertained for a little while and makes her feel special.
3. Dessert. Luna will do anything for dessert. I just tell her if she stays sitting and eat her dinner, she can order any dessert she wants. A little bribery always helps :)
4. Chat & be merry. We always make sure she’s part of the conversation. That way, she doesn’t get bored just staring at the wall. This keeps her sitting down as she happily tells us funny and silly stories.
5. Emergency treat. When the food comes and suddenly she feels the need to get up, run around or become restless and all you want to do is dig into your food – the emergency treat comes out! This doesn’t happen often and that’s why it’s called the emergency treat.
6. Tip well. With a toddler being a little bit more messy with food spilling onto the floor, there’s not much you can do except to tip well and say thank you.
Most restaurants have highchairs/booster seats available and are very accommodating to families. We believe it’s important to enjoy our life with Luna part of it. We love having her around and for her to experiencing the things we love to do. I also think it’s good for children to be accustomed to being in adult like settings. You can’t expect a 4 hour dinner with 2 bottles of wine sipping and chatting the night away. But a 1.5 hour dinner with a couple cocktails, good food, good conversation and a toddler sipping apple juice makes for a great dinner out. That’s really what it’s all about – being together as a family and always enjoying each others company wherever we are.