Three Tricks to Make Dining Out with Your Little Ones Easier
I laugh at myself a little as I write this post because dining out with our crew (three of whom are in some stage of the "terrible twos") has been close to impossible. That said, Zach and I love to dine out, and it is our goal to have restaurant-appropriate children. We're still a ways off from that, but in our quest, we have put a few tricks up our sleeves that have consistently worked to make dining out with young kids a bit more feasible.
For Very Little Ones
In those early-eating, toddler years, I am usually looking for a way to limit the plate and food throwing at restaurants. Plates are all-too-often large, breakable and searing hot, so I need a way to quickly serve them on something else. Now, I have let my kids eat off the table more times than I'd like to admit, but when I have my act together, they eat off of one of these sticky placemats. They stick down onto the table so you can place food directly on them without worrying about flying plates or grimy tabletops. When the meal is done, you peel them up, mess and all, and stack it on a plate or throw away. I keep a stash in my diaper bag and used them with all four of my kids. They were a savior every time. (Pro tip: don't put them down on the table until just as the food arrives, and scoot the high chair back as you do it. They often think unsticking the placemat is a fun new game, but the food always ends up distracting.)
Meal Ordering Strategy
I have my parents to thank for this one. When they let us in on this little secret, our minds were blown! The key is to keep the kids one step ahead of you at the dinner table. It goes like this: When you sit down and order your drinks, order their meals. Just before their food should arrive, order your food. When they finish with theirs, order them a dessert. They have a sweet while you finish your meal. Get your check as this is happening so you can bolt if needed. If everything went according to plan, you all finished together and you even may have been able to enjoy that glass of wine.
In addition to the sticky placemats, I keep a stash of wikki sticks in my diaper bag. They are wax sticks that kids can form into any creation. They have become rings, sunglasses, robots, cars and so much more. They are non-toxic so they are safe for the littlest ones, and they have games and inspiration for older kids, and they are entirely mess-free. My 17-month-old and 7-year-old love them equally. For multiple kids, it's great to get the party favor packs because they are individually packaged and can easily be distributed to everyone.
What restaurant tricks do you use?