Head down, bum up: The ultimate guide to eating out with toddlers

Posted in Mealtimes.

Going out to dinner with a toddler is challenging to say the least. But, for those of you who choose to brave it, here’s a comprehensive guide that might come in handy.

Step 1 – Choose the restaurant

We have so much choice when it comes to restaurants and most places are pretty child friendly. However, it’s still important to think about where you’ll go and what your child will and won’t eat.

I appreciate it’s not always easy to predict what your child will eat on any given day; therefore, I encourage you to channel your inner psychic or crystal ball before making a decision.

As a side note, children and fine dining don’t really mesh. So, unless you’re particularly keen to pull daggers from your back, whilst simultaneously scraping your $50 wagyu beef off the floor, walls and chairs … it’s best to avoid these.

Step 2 – Book the restaurant

Ha! OK, who am I kidding? The chances are that most restaurants (or at least the variety that you’ll be visiting) won’t require a booking for dinner at 4.30/5pm.

On the positive – EARLY BIRD SPECIALS. At least it won’t matter quite as much when the food is untouched, thrown around or made into toddler artwork. Also remember COCKTAIL HOUR – if all else fails at least you can double your drinks.

Step 3 – Get Seated

Remember that dining with toddlers is not to be treated as an indulgent experience, but more of a military one.

When entering the restaurant, be sure to scour the vacant seats as quickly as possible. Forget about the view or how nice it might be to sit outside. Simply choose the spot least likely to disturb people – but also with the quickest escape route.

Think about where noise is least likely to travel – usually a really dark corner at the back of the restaurant – access to the toilets, and the place where the biggest mess will go unnoticed. 

Step 4 – Ordering

Don’t mess around here folks. There’s a VERY small window of opportunity when ‘dining’ with toddlers so, before you’ve even sat down, grab a couple of menus and ask a waiter to come take your order in 30 seconds.

Please discard any notions that you’ll have time to sit back with a glass of wine whilst perusing the menu. Also, don’t consider ordering anything that might take longer than 10 minutes to cook.

When the waiter returns to take your order, order entrees, mains, desserts and drinks all in one hit. Ask for them all to be brought out together and, naturally, as quickly as possible!

Step 5 – Eat

Once your food arrives start eating immediately – head down, bum up! Don’t take time to look at the presentation of food, appreciate the flavours or stop to offer your other half a try. 

Treat this as somewhat of a competition, inhaling as much food in one hit as you can, and swallowing with the least amount of chewing and the most amount of wine.  

Simultaneously cajole your offspring into eating their meal, while factoring in emergency toilet trips, relentless apologies to the staff for the noise and mess, and repetitive strain injury from picking up thrown items from the floor.

If you’ve been successful in all of the above, the chances are that you’ll be out of the restaurant in half an hour, and home on the couch hungry again by 8pm. However, if you insist on eating out with toddlers, this is just the reality and you can’t say you haven’t been warned.

If on the other hand you’re anything like me, you’ll very quickly realise that a babysitter is a much better alternative. Although it costs you financially, the enjoyment of your meal, peace and quiet and a night out alone is priceless.


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