All I can say is I’ve survived toddler dining out with three children and here to tell about it. My tips:
Don’t bring food from home. With my first I brought an insulated lunch box full of food for her. She would eat Cheerios, yogurt, crackers, fruit, and Gerber Graduate jars/packs of food. Naturally she showed no interest in waiting while we ate our dinner. I did not order her a kids’ meal as she was too young. With my other two I would only let them eat the bread on the table while they waited for the kids’ meal. My second child insisted on having the kids’ meal to be like her sister. My second and third were always better eaters in restaurants.
Do bring things to play with. Successful play items:
- the menu and crayons given by the restaurant just watch to see that toddler does not eat crayons. I taught my kids how to draw people, shapes, and other things while waiting for a meas
- small tubs of Play Doh
- painting books where the colors are embedded in page and all child needs to do is wet the page (I would bring a q-tip and a small Dixie cup to fill with water).
- Color Wonder books by Crayola. I would keep the coloring book and the markers in a ziploc bag.
- Magnetic play boards. Good for before dinner. I would keep all pieces in a ziploc bag.
- Paper and stickers.
- I would bring a ziploc bag of crayons to the restaurant in case the restaurant did not provide crayons.
- I taught one toddler how to play a simple version of tic-tac-toe.
- Have child count sugar packets.
- Play I-spy in restaurant with things on the walls. Great game for a restaurant like Chevy’s or Applebee’s with lots of memorabilia on walls.
Choose restaurants with a healthy meal rather than nuggets and fries. My toddlers did not eat this type of kids meal. We liked Chevy’s kids meal — cheese quesadilla, fruit, ice cream cone, and a ball of dough from the tortilla machine to play with.
My children are now 6, 10, and 13 — all great in restaurants, now!