Re-imagining the World One Mouthful at a Time . . . . .

How to Go Out to Eat With a Toddler

07 January 2020

Pre-Alice, I used to eat out quite a bit. Granted, it was mostly local establishments, or fashionable central London based restaurants which I’d peruse the menu with a more seasoned eye – I didn’t care, eating out (and not having to cook) made my day after a long slog in the studio!

Fast-forward to today. We do eat at home more often than we did before Alice, but there are still many days when I finish my work and can’t be bothered to cook or frankly, I want to be ‘out’ amongst sociable people. With a hyper-active, curious and demanding toddler who can’t sit still for more than five minutes, we LOVE going to places to eat that also have toys, games, and books etc for the little ones. It just makes it so less stressful when the kids are entertained. Restaurants who are able to offer this perk for families get instant brownie points in my mummy’s books.

Alice usually gave us around 10 minutes before it all fell apart again. At which point I would start frantically wave my credit card at the waiter, silently asking for takeaway containers so we could salvage what was left of the meal once we got home. It really sucked. But through trial and error, we (me and Baz) figured out the right way to dine out with Alice by sticking to a few basic rules:

1. Pick the right restaurant
Make sure the restaurant is kid-friendly. If you are not sure, make a few visits beforehand. Recently, whilst visiting family in Sheffield, I discovered Amaro Lounge on Ecclesall Road, and this local gem certainly kept Big Al super entertained with their kids play area. Amaro’s a spacious, family-friendly retro inspired retreat with funky artwork and wonderful curios next to oversized sofas in a cosy, laid back setting. They also had a nice varied kids menu which included more than just ‘nuggets and chips’ – Alice loved the mini bread and veg sticks with hummus and all kids meals arrived with their own set of plastic cutlery and a drink.

Eating out with a toddler
Eating out with a toddler

2. Order when (or even before) you sit down
The faster their food appears, the easier your night will be so it’s worth notifying the waiters that you’d like the food (the little ones’ and yours) to arrive quickly.

This sounds super organised but I do my homework and figure out what Alice will eat by looking up the menu online before we arrive.

That way, you can walk in the door, sit down, ask for the ‘sausage and chips’ and your meal, safe in the knowledge that you’ve averted the first of the evening’s ‘I’m bored as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore’ tantrums.

Eating out with a toddler

3. Carry a distractions bag
I can’t live without one. Even the crankiest little bundle of joy can be bought off with a sticker book or Peppa pig toy while you enjoy your burger and chips or your perfectly-cooked steak. Alice is currently really into sticker books or, as a very last resort, give them your Iphone to watch something while you enjoy your meal. I used to be one of those parents that were adamant not to get out the Iphone to entertain their kids but when you just want to eat your (cold) burger and chips in peace – it’s absolutely fine! We need to do what we need to do. Just make sure it can be watched with the sound on low because an iPad/Phone blasting that Peppa Pig theme tune will upset everyone… even you! :)

4. Try to enjoy yourself
Eating out doesn’t need to be a catastrophe. And it shouldn’t be one, either. These days we don’t walk into the experience expecting the worst — you’ll be cranky before the starters arrives, and by the time you’re done eating you’ll be swearing that this is the last time you ever take the kids anywhere :)

If you have a busy toddler or baby that’s in that gotta-move-around-stage too, let me know what your tricks are for meals out. I’d love to hear them!

Bon appetit.

{photos by Siu-Ann Lai and Cindy Cheung}

Missie Cindz

posted under: Kiddo Inspo