Eating out with toddlers can be difficult. They get excited and confused by all the new people, sights and sounds. And when they tire from such a stimulating environment, they tend to act out in inappropriate ways. But going to restaurants with toddlers does not have to be an unpleasant experience. There are things that parents can do to help their youngsters (and themselves!) enjoy a meal away from home. Here are 10 valuable tips for dining out with toddlers:

  1. Before you go to the restaurant, have your toddler practice saying the phrase “nice woman” so he doesn’t blurt out “big woman” when the waitress comes to take your order. She may not be big at all, but it makes no difference to your little social miscreant to whom everything and everyone is now big.
  2. There are lots of kid-friendly restaurants that provide entertaining games, balloons, clowns and crayons. Never go to one of these places because all the noisy children there will absolutely ruin your meal.
  3. Instead, go to the a little expensive restaurant. The classier the place, the less likely it is that any other boisterous children will be there to interfere with your meal. And the staff will be polite enough to pretend they don’t notice when your little darling spits a mouthful of roast beef onto the table while cryptically complaining, “It’s not working.”
  4. Remind your nice waitperson how funny it was in the movie Animal House when John Belushi spewed mashed potatoes out of his mouth and onto other people.
  5. Bring a small container of some of your child’s favorite foods – Cheerios, apple slices, cheese, etc. That way, when he’s done throwing the restaurant food you had ordered for him off his plate, he’ll have some familiar snacks to throw on the floor, too.
  6. If it’s apparent that your little one is just too distracted to eat in the restaurant, don’t force the issue. He’ll be hungry when you get home, though, so be sure to ask your nice server to put the perfectly good food that’s on the floor into a “to go” box.
  7. Bring earplugs. They’ll allow you to finish your meal calmly and in silence while your precious one screams and writhes in what appears to be the most unbearable distress because you, the big meanie, won’t let him stand on the table and grab the chandelier.
  8. Take a fully charged Dustbuster. Those seated at neighboring tables may give you some odd looks when you turn it on, but you’ll be glad you have it when toddler-boy discovers that the salt and pepper shakers, not to mention the sugar bowl, don’t have childproof caps.
  9. Go ahead and let him crawl around under your table – it will keep him entertained. And don’t worry if he somehow escapes, makes his way under another party’s table, points at an elderly lady’s crotch and loudly asks, “What’s that?” The other party will undoubtedly find it all terribly cute and endearing, and you can just laugh it off by explaining that he’s at an inquisitive stage.
  10. And finally, never ever go back to that same restaurant again. Instead, the next time you eat out, go to a completely different place so a whole new group of restaurant workers and patrons get to experience the joy that is your toddler dining in public.

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