How to make eating out with kids easier
Published 14/08/23 by Amy Blanchard
Do your research
Let’s face it, some restaurants just aren’t child-friendly. But that doesn’t mean that you have to settle for chicken nuggets and chips. A handy way to find a spot that will cater to the smallest members of your family is to ask if they have children’s cutlery and high chairs. Some places will even have colouring or other activities to keep the tots occupied.
While you’re at it, remember to look at the menu ahead of time, you’ll be able to make sure there are options for your little foodie and order quicker when you get there. By picking a restaurant with a buzzing atmosphere, your tiny diners can make plenty of clatter without you feeling like they’re disturbing others. Even better if they have table booths so they can move around freely.
Our tonie-tastic tip is make sure you go out within their normal ‘eating routine’, if they usually eat dinner at 5pm then try to get a reservation around that time. Also try and make sure they’re not absolutely famished when you go, they might not be able to wait for the food to arrive and no one likes to be hangry!
Create a tasting adventure
Positive food experiences from an early age can really help form a love of food that lasts a lifetime. So first things first, order a ‘safe food’ - something you know your kid will eat so they’ve got food in their tummies and not getting hungrier and hungrier. Now, if you’re ordering bits and bobs to share (the best way to eat dinner if you ask us), they’re much more likely to try something new and usual if they have their safe food too. Also even more likely that they’ll want to dig in once they see you enjoying it! Letting them experience those new flavours is a great way to expand any stubborn palettes.
Once you are all feasting, ask them questions about the foods they are trying - how does that taste? What do you think that’s made from? Does it crunch or crack when you bite it?
What to pack
Minimise the mess and maximise success with bibs, wipes and cups. It’s also a good idea to bring along familiar forks or spoons to help the transition from home to restaurant. By snapping on a bib, little snackers won’t be wearing their dinner by the time you leave, and then for easy peasy clean ups of those grubby hands and face, just pull out the handy wipes. Your mucky pup will be cleaned up in no time. Also remember to bring their sippy cup, bottle or straws. Nothing is worse than worrying about whether that glass or flimsy paper cup is going to hold-up against your kiddos.
Bring the entertainment
Even the most well-behaved child can get bored if they are forced to sit still through a long meal. Chat about stuff that’s interesting to them - tell a joke, play I spy, ask about their friends, whatever! Or give Emma’s idea a go, she’s from the tonies® team and has two young children. She takes along a restaurant activity bag filled with colouring pages, crayons, playdoh and washi tape from home Top secret: Washi tape keeps them entertained for ages when dining out!
But don’t forget you’ve also got your bag of tonies® tricks. Taking along their Toniebox means they can listen to their best-loved characters tell them a story or sing them a song, all with no screens in sight. Did you know the Toniebox has a headphone jack and matching headphones too? Just what you need for happy, quiet listening and you won’t have to worry about disturbing other diners either.
Nicola, Mum to J, takes his Toniebox to restaurants all the time. “He goes into his own zone with his familiar Tonies stories and puts his headphones on if things feel overwhelming (not to mention if he has to do any amount of waiting!)”. Another tonie-tastic tip is to reserve a stash of Tonies that are restaurant-only, therefore super special.
Dining with kids, especially the littlest of eaters, is rarely smooth 100% of the time. The more you go out with your kids, the more they’ll learn how it works. Keep practising with our top tips and they’ll be ready for a six-course tasting menu, white tablecloth and silverware in no time. Good luck!