Ever went out for a nice dinner with your significant other at the end of long tiring work week only to find out that you are placed next to a family with 2 overexcited toddlers wailing away at slightly different pitches? I have. Although the noises seemed to make the others around us unconformable, I could only empathize with the stressed-out parents who were trying everything possible to mitigate the ruckus created by their little ones.
ALSO, READ How to Tame Your Kid’s Public Tantrums
Having seen my brother and sister-in-law bring my nephews, aged 3 and 5, to family dinners and outings without fail has taught me that outing with toddlers isn’t something impossible. Here are 5 tips that can be followed for a stress-free outing:
- Choosing The Right Place
Although this might seem a given, it is rather easy to overlook this step especially in a case where you are invited by someone. Always call the restaurant in advance to check whether or not they have high-chairs, kids menu, and playing areas. The high-chair will be your best friend at a crowded restaurant where you won’t have to constantly keep an eye out for the little ones. With the plethora of new restaurants opening in Pakistan (The Deli), it is understandable for you to be excited to try out new cuisines, however, nothing is more tantalizing to your toddler than a plate of French fries or a cheeseburger.
Some restaurants such as big fast food chains often have playing areas for children with slides and a ball pit which do a great job at keeping toddlers busy before and after their meal. Also, avoid places such as chai-dhabas or roadside joints which are open and may have uneven floors.
- Choose The Right Time
Toddlers who are school going have set routines to follow; wake-up, school, lunch, nap, playtime, dinner, and sleep. Dining out, especially in Pakistan, starts late and goes on till midnight or after whereas your toddler is used to eating dinner at 8 pm and sleeping by 10 pm. A disturbance in their daily routine can make your toddler cranky and agitated. To avoid this, try to plan your meal earlier and adjust the day’s routine for your little ones to accommodate the late meal. Make sure your toddler is well-rested and its close to their regular mealtime.
- Prepare Some Distractions
The goal of dining out with toddlers is to keep them busy in the constraints of the high chair. To achieve this goal, we have tried and tested some props. It’s always a good idea to throw your kid’s favorite toy in the bag. Children tend to get fidgety in new environments so a piece of their home will comfort them and keep them busy too. If you forgot to bring a toy, get creative with the utensils provided. For example, straws make for great silent drumsticks for your little one! DO NOT give your little one a smartphone to watch something. Remember that eating out is a great chance for socialization for your little one and is an interactive experience too. Instead, engage them in conversation or go over table manners with them.
- Respect Others
This one is pretty straightforward. Respect the people sitting around you as they have a right to have a meal in peace. Ask the waiters to place you away from individuals without children or in a family area to avoid disturbance. Avoid letting your toddler be independent at a restaurant only to later find them under someone else’s table or toppling a waiter over. Last but not the least, if your little one is bawling their eyes out and you’ve tried everything, be ready to leave. In addition to putting your toddler at ease, you will also be a blessing to all the diners around you.
- Keep It Short
A full desi Pakistani meal is not complete without gossiping over kulfi, paan or chai after for hours after dinner. Although it seems very attractive, this might not be the best option if you have your little ones with you. Children get sleepy after dinner and if not provided with a comfortable place to sleep, expect them to get a little cranky. Excuse yourself as soon as the meal is over in order to avoid children staying up late and getting irritable.