Does the thought of eating out with baby fill you with dread? You’re not alone… many parents worry about taking their little ones to a restaurant with them – sometimes to the extent where they simply don’t do it and a nice meal out becomes a thing of the past!
Of course, babies are unpredictable and there’s no guarantee that your “little angel” will behave like one as you sit down to dinner!
But taking your baby to a restaurant with you from an early age is a good idea, as it gets him accustomed to the whole experience.
Under your guidance, he’ll begin to learn about good table manners and what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in a restaurant environment.
These lessons will stay with your baby so that, as he grows, you’ll be able to look forward to eating out often as a family. You will also be nurturing a long-lasting appreciation and enjoyment of food!
There are many “child-friendly” eating establishments that are ideal for young families.
Not only do they have the equipment you might need, but the atmosphere is usually fun and lively.
Avoid eating in a more formal setting where there are very few children – every sound your baby makes will seem ten times louder, you may receive some hostile stares and the whole experience will be less than fun!
Check the restaurant’s policy on feeding at the table.
If there’s a problem, we’d recommend choosing a more family-friendly establishment!
He will be hungry and more likely to concentrate on eating, giving you a chance to enjoy your own meal.
Getting to the restaurant early also means you’re less likely to have to wait for a table – and service is usually quicker in the early part of the evening.
Even if they do, check the seat for cleanliness – sometimes restaurant highchairs can be pretty disgusting. Considering your baby may end up eating directly off the tray, it’s crucial that it’s clean!
We recommend investing in a good travel highchair during baby’s first year.
You’ll get loads of use out of it – not just for eating out and being able to place your baby in a seat that’s familiar to him (which is important to some babies) – but also because you know that you’ll always be able to comfortably feed your baby wherever you are!
This is especially important if your baby is very young and you may need somewhere to put the carrier.
So make it entertaining.
Bring along diversions – little toys are great (although we’d recommend avoiding anything too noisy!), or you can bring the most mundane household items that can keep your baby happy for ages!
Our favourite cheap and cheerful homemade toy is a tub with a lid (like an ice cream tub) with a hole cut into it. You can then give your baby items to post through the hole – they love it!
Whatever you bring with you, try to make sure it’s either new or hasn’t been played with for a while, so its entertainment value will last longer.
Bring some basic finger food items or pre-made travel snacks.
Your baby will not be prepared to wait for food as long as you are!
Our son was given a china dish in a restaurant, which he promptly hurled across the room like a frisby and smashed on the tiled floor.
Be sure to do this BEFORE you sit down.
Hopefully, this will save you the inconvenience of getting up during your meal.
If your baby is old enough to be eating the restaurant’s food, we strongly recommend avoiding the 'kid friendly' meals.
For some reason, restaurant owners believe that all children adore chicken nuggets, burgers, fries and the like – but, given the opportunity, kids will eat far healthier and tastier foods quite willingly!
Eating in a restaurant is a great time to offer your baby some foods he may not have tried before!
Often the worst tantrums take place when you take him out to keep him occupied – and he doesn’t want to get back in when the food arrives!
Eventually, it will become normal to him to sit at a table for the duration of a meal, rather than want to get down and play half way through.
Restaurants can be dangerous places for babies.
Do not seat your baby in an aisle where he may be at risk from waiting staff walking by with hot food and drinks. Clear his immediate area of any glassware or cutlery. And when your meal arrives, make sure that all hot plates are out of his reach.
Don’t forget to tip your waiter/waitress generously!
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Dealing with long journeys by car