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How to Restaurant Train Your Toddler. I’ll wait for you to stop laughing and rolling your eyes. Done? Okay now I know this might be crazy talk but you can enjoy dining out with a toddler. Austin and I love to go out to eat. We enjoy trying new and exciting restaurants, attending food festivals, chef tasting menu’s and even food demo’s. Then Morgan happened. Ah the joys of eating out with a baby.
We were pretty scared at first to take her with us to a restaurant. We had seen too many examples of babies, toddlers, kids and even teenagers acting wild. Their parents always looked embarrassed and helpless. We didn’t want to be those parents. But what were we to do? Give up eating at restaurants forever? Or only ever dine out when we had a babysitter? No we took action early on. We consciously made an effort to take Morgan to a restaurant once a week after she turned about 5 months old.
In the early days it was super easy. Morgan slept the entire time in her stroller or covered car seat. We enjoyed rather lengthy meals at some nice establishments. We even attended a few food festivals with her sound asleep in her Ergobaby. OMG by the way the Ergo! Best thing ever. A hands free, comfortable, ergonomic baby carrier. We still use it to this day – shes 14 months old.
Once Morgan grew so did our determination to restaurant train her. I must say that Morgan is a very chill baby so this indeed helped with the process. But I believe wholeheartedly that if you try my 3 extremely simple tips below, you too can enjoy restaurant bliss.
First things first make sure you go out to eat during regular meal times. If you are a parent you know that a schedule is everything! You live and die by that schedule. Day Light Saving time, we hate you! But I digress, the simplest way to have a well behaved child at breakfast, lunch, or dinner is to dine out when they are hungry.
The biggest mistake I see parents making is they take their kids out to eat at odd times. This may be unavoidable during holiday functions such as Thanksgiving or Christmas; but even during the holidays, melt downs can be avoided if you feed them when they are actually interested in eating.
Second, create a unique dining out ritual. We have a very simple eating out ritual that puts Morgan at ease and eliminates her overly stimulated senses at a restaurant. We set up her high chair and use a cushioned high chair cover so shes comfortable. The cover comes equipped with hooks to attach toys. We always have a few fun items attached that she only plays with when we go out to eat.
We then clean the table and her hands to let her know its food time. Next we get her bib on, her ezpz plate set up and give her a spoon to hold. She’s not great at using a spoon yet, but she loves to hold it. I highly recommend the ezpz plate (as seen in my image). It is silicon so it is very easy to wash. Dishwasher and microwave safe. It suctions on to almost all table surfaces. We can use it on her high chair at home and almost all restaurant tables. It’s compartmentalized so you can give your baby multiple items to eat at the same time. We absolutely love it for all those reasons and because it comes with a plastic carry case for easy transport.
Lastly, I bring her food but also let her try new things. Please stop ordering chicken fingers and french fries for your toddler! Just stop it now. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with that order, in fact I order it as an adult quite often. The thing is toddlers want to eat what you are eating. They see us enjoying new food items so they reach for it. Morgan eats gyoza – who knew!!! Shes loves it. She also loves miso salmon, tofu and eel. And that’s just when we go to sushi. We have exposed her to pretty much everything – Thai, Indian, Mexican, American and even Greek.
You don’t have to limit your child’s pallet. Let them try what you are having, you might be pleasantly surprised. The bonus take away from step 3 is that you will eventually have an adventurous eater on your hands. Sure beats a picky eater any day of the week!
Go out and have a nice meal at a restaurant and take your toddler with you. I can’t guarantee immediate results. However, over time using the simple 3 steps above you will start seeing a change in behavior. A change for the better for both you and your toddler. Happy Eating!!!