Do you ever take your toddler out to dinner? If so, how likely are they to sit still and behave through the meal? Not very? Well, you’re not alone!

According to the results of a survey over at Wriggly Rascals*, about eating out with toddlers, over half of the parents who responded said that their biggest challenge when it came to taking their little ones out to restaurants was getting them to sit still, with 30% saying their child was too noisy and a further 20% concerned that their little one throws and breaks things. And that’s without worrying that it might be the day they decide to have a complete meltdown.

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Mushroom and I often eat out at family friendly restaurants during the day in the week, when they are a bit quieter and if he wants to get down and run around a bit, it’s not frowned upon. Evening meals, however, are a bit trickier. He tends to be tired by about 6pm, the restaurants are busier and we’re less likely to see other toddlers around, which draws more attention to us! Sometimes, though, like last weekend when we went out for a family meal to celebrate his Grandma’s birthday, it can’t be avoided. So, in order to make sure it went as smoothly as possible, I made sure we were prepared! Here are my top tips for eating out with a toddler who does not like to sit still:

  • If possible, go to a family friendly restaurant in the daytime! This makes everything easier. If this isn’t possible, then;
  • Phone ahead to check whether the restaurant has high chairs – even if your child doesn’t end up sitting it it, their response will let you know how used they are to having small children!
  • If you can, make a reservation and ask to be seated somewhere less conspicuous, like in a corner away from the middle of the room. That way if you have to deal with a meltdown it won’t become the evening’s entertainment for other diners
  • If your toddler still naps, try to put them down a bit later so that they are less tired in the evening. If they don’t nap but are usually exhausted by the evening, consider forcing a nap early afternoon by taking them out in the buggy or car if you can! Or at least have a long period of quiet time to prevent over-tiredness later
  • Bring along some snacks – fruit is always popular with Mushroom and sometimes we take rice cakes or breadsticks – in case there is a long wait for food
  • Take some small toys that they can play with quietly at the table – a small colouring in book and crayons, a favourite mini stuffed toy (Mushroom likes to ‘feed the baby’ while waiting)… Anything that will fit in their hands and can be played with on the table/in a high chair tray. Mushroom has some small toys based on of one of his favourite books (can you guess which one?) – he took these, and a couple of other mini favourites, along last weekend and they were perfect.

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If all else fails and it’s just too much (for you or your toddler!), pop outside for a walk or even be prepared to ask for a doggy bag and head home early. Toddlers are simply not programmed to sit still for long periods of time and if they can consistently sit nicely, wait for food and eat it before playing up, you’re a step ahead of the rest of us!

Do you take your little ones out of dinner often? If so, what are your top tips for making the meal go smoothly? Please do share your experiences in the comments!

*Shona Motherwell, a frustrated mum of twins Mhairi and Archie, created Wriggly Rascals to get mums together to share pregnancy, baby and toddler advice via quick surveys to get the facts about what other mums do. If you would like read or share some advice, click on the image below.