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Preparing Yourself and Your Toddler for Eating Out

by T Akery | July 15th, 2011 | Infants/Toddlers

At some point, you and your toddler will face the prospect of eating somewhere that is not McDonald’s. These sit down restaurants are a challenge for both toddlers and parents. Creating a peaceful eating experience for everyone means preparation, planning, and knowing how your toddler is going to react in a strange place and a new situation. Just be aware that it may be quite sometime before your toddler understands that eating a restaurant is different than eating at home.

Knowing how your toddler is going to react to a strange place is a big part of determining whether your toddler should accompany you to that restaurant. A restaurant is a very social place and can be very noisy at times. There are lots of strange people around. If you aren’t sure whether you will get a positive reaction or negative reaction, you should do a test run. Just go down to the restaurant and walk in with your toddler. Then gauge your toddler’s reaction to the place. Also, consider how your toddler does in social situations. If there are any doubts, than you should plan to have a babysitter. It will be less stressful for you and your toddler.

If you are planning a family dinner, call ahead. You want to get their menu options for picky eaters. This way you can pack a few favorite snacks to take with you. Also, you want to try to get a table in a corner area away from the main crowds in the room and near the bathrooms. It is likely your potty-trained toddler will want to go to the bathroom more than once. It is also easier to change diapers when you are close to the bathroom.

Prepare for the adventure by making sure your toddler is not tired and cranky. Pack a few little quiet toys for them to play with. Even if the restaurant provides coloring material, have a few options ready in case of boredom. When they start getting restless while waiting on the food take them outside for a bit of exercise in the parking lot.

If they get upset by something, take them outside immediately before the screaming fit begins. Take them to the car until they are done expressing themselves. It may mean leaving dinner behind but it is better that you take them out of the situation instead of forcing them to stay in it. It will only stress you out more.

Try practicing at home. Create a game of how to behave while eating in a restaurant. Show them the acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable in a restaurant. This way they will understand what to expect when eating out.

Finally, don’t forget to reward them for their good behavior at the end of their adventure.

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