Tips for Dining Out with Littles

Few things intimidate a parent like taking two toddlers out to eat. We live in the suburbs of Virginia where restaurants aren’t in walking distance so even though we don’t eat out all that often, every mom needs to have some tips and tricks up her sleeve for those days where cooking, take-out and delivery won’t cut it. When we were in Italy this summer, we spent at least one meal a day at a restaurant and I learned some things that have taken the cringe factor out of dining-out with these babes.

1. Bring a few toys. Having Oshiolema choose a toy for the drive and restaurant has been a game changer. While he won’t have a tantrum at the table, he will be tempted to dump the entire salt shaker on his plate and dump every packet of sugar onto the table. Packing a little car, a small book or a superhero makes all the difference. I’m currently doing a happy dance since I’m out of the diaper bag phase and am finally able to wear my purses again (Armed with a couple diapers for K and a travel pack of wipes, of course) so bonus points for packing his toys in his own backpack- it makes him feel all kinds of responsible.
2. …but Don’t underestimate “table top toys.” If you forget the toys or the things you packed just aren’t cutting it, those salt and pepper shakers, sugar packets and napkins can make for endless entertainment. I do my best to tidy up any mess we make, but I guarantee the laughter and peace and quiet will top the stress and tears atop a perfectly clean table.
3. Place your order, then go play. If O and I are both there, we’ll order the food and one of us will take both kids outside to get some wiggles out. This isn’t always necessary but if the kids are super hungry or the wait is longer than expected, our 12 month old is just not going to make a 40 minute wait a pleasant experience. As far as my kids go, fresh air cures just about everything. (when I’m alone, this tip doesn’t quite work, but even a walk to the bathroom with them will act as a necessary change of scenery.)
4. Pack a small, light snack. While Oshiolema can wait for his meal like a champ, K tends to get more upset by the minute when she sees food around her but not in front of her at mealtime. We love things like cut up grapes, puffs and teethers for this.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. There may be a point in time where one of your kids gets upset or loses their cool. As someone who is a people pleaser, this gives me stress sweat and I feel like all eyes are on us, making me harsh and embarrassed for no reason. Toddlers are toddlers. They have one million feelings per second and while we’re blessed with well behaved kids that understand “inside voice” and “respect people around you…” they are 2.5 and 12 months. It gets crazy sometimes. And that’s okay.

hat: Madewell, dress: Madewell, shoes: Sam Edelman

The obvious tip that’s missing from this list is to bring an iPhone or an iPad, but to be honest at this point we avoid it. Once that world is opened up I know there will be no stopping it and while i’m sure the more kids we have, the more we’ll need those things- for now, we don’t do screens aside from the TV after breakfast and movies on the weekends.

I’d love to hear any tips you have for taking your littles out to eat! Not going to lie, there was a time during our two weeks in Italy with a 2 year old and 10 month old that I’d rather eat dry cereal from a box then take them out to eat again. It was a rough age combination and the volume my daughter can reach between bites is just superhuman. If you’re in a rough age combination too, hopefully these tips help. We’re all in this together!

all photos in the post are by my incredibly talented sister Jaclyn Michelle Photography.




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