When my son was a baby, it was so hard to take him out to eat. I would get to the restaurant and say to myself, “Why did I even bother?” But now that my son is a toddler, it’s easier and way more more fun to get out to catch a nice meal. But lets be clear, it takes strategic planning to know how to occupy your toddler so that everyone is able to enjoy their meal.
So lets get to it. How do you achieve a fun outing at a restaurant with your toddler?
First, make sure that you are mindful of the time that you are taking your toddler out. For example, if your toddler takes a nap everyday around noon, then lunchtime would not be a good idea unless it’s an early lunch. Taking your toddler out to eat before he/she gets too hungry is key. Timing is everything and the last thing you want is a sleepy, cranky, or starving baby in a wait line at a restaurant. I find that I enjoy taking my toddler at breakfast time after he’s had some milk. If not, dinner time has been the most enjoyable, not a late dinner though. You might end up with a sleepy baby if you eat around 7pm or later.
The choice of restaurant makes a difference as well. With this, it is all about experimenting. I find restaurants that have a short wait, a baby changing station and plenty of table space the best choices for eating with a toddler. Trying to take a toddler to a very busy brunch spot in Uptown after church on a Sunday may not be the most well liked experience for you and your toddler. Not only will the wait time be extremely long, but it could be hard to find parking. The selection of food on the menu is key too. You want to make sure that they have food that your toddler can eat. Any restaurant with a kids menu gets an A+ from me. (Please see my list of restaurants that I recommend for toddlers at the end of my post).
It is also important to make sure you pack the right essentials to occupy your child at the restaurant. You want to make sure you pack some snacks for the wait on the food. Dry cereal, crackers, and cookies usually do the trick, or you could simply give them some bread that the restaurant may provide. Try to bring small things that your little one can play with, like a crayon or coloring book. I love to go to restaurants that have the coloring book and kids menu all in one! Its better if you limit what your bring to the restaurant to just the things that you need. Now that your little one is a toddler, a small backpack may be all that you need these days instead of a fully packed diaper bag.
Spacing in the restaurant is also key. What I mean by spacing is having enough space to put the high chair, diaper bag/back pack, your purse and any other things that you bring to the restaurant. The last thing you want is to have to put your things on the floor where it could be in the way of the wait staff. I always request a table where the high chair has plenty of space to fit on the end. Plus it is extra hard on your arms and back to carry your toddler, the backpack, and your purse from to and from your car.
With all of these things in mind, here are my top 3 toddler-friendly restaurants:
- Pappadeaux in Duncanville: I love that they have plenty of spacing, the wait time is low, and they have kid friendly coloring menus.
- Breadwinners in NorthPark Mall : Depending on the wait time, the spacing is wonderful and food selection is good for everyone in the family
- David’s Seafood Grill in Cedar Hill: This place is a new-found discovery for me. They have a wonderful kids coloring menu, great food selection, and a lot of space to walk around outside to pass any wait time.
Like I shared before, it is all about experimenting and seeing what works for you and your family. All that matters is that everyone gets to spend quality time together and eat a good meal!