Dining out with a toddler is tricky, but it can be done if you’re armed with the right tools. Here are eight items to bring to a restaurant to ensure things run smoothly—and to help you eat your meal in peace!
1) Triangular Crayons: Most restaurants that aren’t too fancy (i.e. restaurants you would actually bring your kid to) give children crayons and coloring pages. The problem is, the darn crayons constantly roll off the table—meaning you’ll have to spend your entire meal reaching onto the floor to retrieve them. A great solution? Bring a few Crayola Triangular Crayons, which will stay put throughout the meal. You may also want to bring a travel-sized coloring book in case the restaurant doesn’t have coloring pages.
2) Disposable place mats: Since toddlers generally cannot be trusted with breakable dishes, it’s a good idea to bring disposable place mats that stick to the table. The place mat will give your child a clean surface from which to eat her food, and you can just peel it off and throw it away at the end of the meal. Try these fun Sesame Street Biodegradable Table Toppers. They were a lifesaver while dining out when our twins were toddlers!
3) A waterproof bib with a pocket: Cloth bibs just won’t cut it for toddlers. For minimal mess at mealtime, you’ll need a waterproof, wipeable bib with a pocket at the bottom to catch crumbs and dropped pieces of food. We like Bumkins SuperBibs.
4) Baby wipes: This should go without saying, as you’ll likely have wipes in your diaper bag anyway for diaper changes. But be sure to keep them handy in the restaurant to keep your little one’s hands clean as he eats and to wipe up spills and messes throughout the meal.
5) A sippy cup: While many restaurant have plastic kids’ cups with straws, some don’t. Since you don’t want to risk your child spilling her drink all over the place or breaking a glass, don’t forget to bring her favorite sippy cup!
6) Toddler utensils: If your toddler is not yet adept at eating with a salad fork or a teaspoon, be sure to bring toddler-sized utensils. My family has tried them all, and our favorites are the NUK Gerber Graduates Kiddy Cutlery.
7) Small Toys: Toy cars, little figures, board books, and other small playthings will help keep your toddler entertained while you eat.
8) Smartphone or tablet loaded with fun apps: Even if you are anti-screen time in your day-to-day life, it’s a good idea to load a few educational apps, or a toddler-friendly TV show or movie, onto your smartphone or tablet in case of an emergency (i.e. a tantrum). If your meals take a long time to come out or your child finishes his meal before the rest of the group is finished eating, he may get antsy and restless. In that case, a small dose of technology could help you avoid a huge meltdown and dirty looks from other diners.
What else do you bring to a restaurant when dining out with your toddler? Leave a comment and let us know!
Wednesday 16th of October 2019
I liked your tip of bringing baby wipes to a restaurant with a toddler. My wife and I are looking to bring our kid to a fancy restaurant for the first time. I'll be sure to pack some baby wipes for our restaurant visit.
Monday 9th of September 2019
It was helpful when you suggested to bring triangular crayons for their coloring books so they're not constantly rolling off the table and needing to be picked up. I really like the idea of finding an Italian restaurant to take my kids to this weekend, but keeping two kids busy and well mannered in public can be a hassle. Thanks for sharing this article and providing some great tips to make our restaurant experience less stressful!
Jennifer Marino Walters
Monday 5th of May 2014
Dina, I completely agree! We never EVER give them the iPhone after they are already having a tantrum. (We learned very early on as newbie parents—the hard way—that giving them what they want when they're screaming only makes them think it will happen every time!) I'll really only pull it out when I sense a tantrum coming due to something beyond our control, like if we're eating with a large group that is taking long to finish, or the service is painfully slow, etc. And yes, I do let them use the iPad on the plane—and that's about the only time. I have found that if you give your child a device too often, it's no longer a treat for them and won't hold their attention when you REALLY need it to! To my delight, I've been finding myself needing to give the boys my phone MUCH less frequently at restaurants. We ate out yesterday evening and I didn't even have to give them crayons. They just talked to us and then entertained themselves by pretending two sugar packets were pirates and letting them interact. Gotta love kids' imaginations!
The only thing I disagree with in your comment is calling a parent "stupid" for giving an iPad to a kid having a tantrum. No, it's not a good idea to do it (for the reasons you stated), but there are so many new parents out there still learning and figuring out the best way to handle things. No one is a perfect parent from day one, nor is anyone a perfect parent all the time. There also may be parents out there who are exhausted and overwhelmed and sometimes make a decision that goes against their best judgment just to get a few quiet moments. Calling them "stupid" is just mean and insensitive. Let's try to be supportive by offering better solutions, as you did, and not by name calling!
Saturday 3rd of May 2014
Most of this advice I totally agree with. Except number 8. There is no way in H - e - double hockey sticks that I would ever consider rewarding my child's tantrum by offering an Ipad or smartphone to stop it. That is a really short road to more tantrums. I agree 100% with bringing it on a flight, or somewhere where my kids would need to sit quietly for hours, but even then, giving it when your kid is tantrumming is really just rewarding bad behavior. Instead, I would advise parents to use their brains a little. Figure out why your kid is throwing a tantrum. First question, have you inadvertently (by doing stupid things like offering ipads for stopping one) taught them that having a tantrum is a remarkably effective way to score something they want? Second question, if you have been smart enough to avoid that pitfall, ask yourself, are they tired, or hungry, or bored? If they are tired, that could be a really tough one to solve in the restaurant. Sometimes, I will let my little one sit in my lap, or I will just talk quietly with him/her to help distract them in this case. If they are hungry, you can try and get some bread, or ask that their order come out sooner, if possible. If they are just bored, here is a novel suggestion. Talk to them. Teach them, by example, how to behave in a restaurant by engaging in conversation. Even if it is about Ernie or Elmo. Or break out some crayons, like the author said - the triangle ones are awesome in places like restaurants and planes. If you do feel that electronics are your best bet, then it is best to give them over before any tanrtum happens. Then at least you haven't put yourself in the awful position of having to reward bad behavior.
Thursday 1st of May 2014
Play doh! They sell small containers of it in the dollar spot at Target. Life saver!
Sunday 9th of June 2019
my daughter lets my 3 and 7 year old have playdoh when the go to a restaurant. It's truly revolting to see this