Even though I love to cook, our family also loves to go out to eat. Whether it is a fancy restaurant or a small hole in the wall pizza place, just that social aspect of getting out of the house, being around other people, and enjoying a meal prepared by someone else is pretty darn great. Throw in the fact that I don’t have to clean up after said meal, well that is just icing on the cake!
There are so many amazing restaurants in the Twin Cities. We love trying new places and have a long list of our favorites that we love to go back to time and time again. Before we had kids, we ate out about twice a week. Towards the end of my pregnancy with our first daughter, I began preparing myself mentally that we were no longer going to have the opportunity to go out to eat anymore and that I should soak it all up while I can. Let me be the first to tell you, just because you have kids doesn’t mean that you no longer can go out to eat and enjoy it!
The baby stage is the easiest when it comes to eating out. They can sit in their infant seats in a sling or high chair while you eat and they can soak up the experience of being in a new place with lots to look at. As they get older, ready to sit in the highchair, and are mobile, things definitely get to be more of a challenge, but totally doable! Here are a few of my favorite items to bring in my diaper bag when we are going out to eat.
- Table Toppers disposable stick-on placemat. This is my Must Have item when eating out with a young toddler. Both of my girls refused to eat purees and only wanted finger foods and to feed themselves once they were about 9 months old. Unfortunately, as I have found out the hard way, a young toddler and a plate with food on it doesn’t always go well together. The plate usually ends up on the floor, food all over the place, an upset baby, and a not-so-happy mama. These toppers are the perfect solution. They stick right to the table and you simply peel it off when you are done and throw it away. The added bonus? They come in different characters that the kids love and a sticker set that is included help keep them entertained! You can buy them here.
- A small snack to hold them over until the food arrives. Quite often once we sit down at the table, our kids are ready to eat right away and do not always have the patience to wait until we order and the food arrives. A small snack such as cut up grapes, puffs, veggie sticks, or crackers keep them happy while waiting for their meal to come.
- Sippy Cup. For some younger toddlers, drinking from a straw might not be the easiest. Add that to the fact that some of the kid cups at restaurants are not exactly spill proof can leave opportunity for an unfortunate situation. No one wants to cry over spilled milk, right?
- Coloring books and or sticker books. Small coloring or sticker books are great entertainment for toddlers while dining out. Forget them at home? Ask the server if they have some. Most restaurants have small crayon packs and something to draw on. If they don’t have any coloring pages, paper napkins work great too!
- Play-dough. Trust me on this one. My husband and I owe play-dough BIG time in keeping my kids entertained while we enjoy a night out to eat as a family and have some time to talk to each other or with the other people we are with. Three to four mini tubes of play-dough and four to six play-dough tools are a staple in my diaper bag. Depending on the situation, we’ll take it out before we get our meal to keep the kids entertained and then put it away once the food gets to the table or if the kids finish eating before we are done, we take it out then. We love that the play-dough allows the kids to be creative, happy, and let’s face it; sometimes mom and dad get in the action and help create fun things with the play-dough too!
The last item is not in my diaper bag, but is probably one of the most important things: have realistic expectations when eating out with kids. Eating out with toddlers is rarely going to be perfect, but with some practice, patience, and the right items in your diaper bag, it could be a fun night out for the whole family.