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5 tips to to eating out with toddlers in a grown-up restaurant

Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Living in a place like NYC where dining options are so abundant and time is precious, eating out with kids happens more often than not. The tricky thing is all the places WE want to eat out don't always have kid-focused menus.  This is probably due to refined kid-palates passed down from parents living in a diverse food city (I never heard of sushi til my late teens yet Winter knows what it is and loves edamame as a snack) but still... sometimes I just want to be easy and give them chicken fingers and fries and call it a day.  
 Well, I've collected a few tips from our dining and dining-while-traveling days that have come to make eating out with our toddlers doable and sometimes enjoyable. Granted these are general parent-survival tips you probably already have in your arsenal. nevertheless, sharing is caring and hopefully one of these might be handy for you or another parent/caregiver.
 1. Dine on the earlier side.   This may be a no-brainer due to kid schedules but if you have a choice go earlier in the meal time. Less people. You'll probably get more attentive service. And your food comes out quicker!

 2. Come prepared.  With distractions.   Once we're seated and the girls have gotten over the sensory overload of a new place we start with the menus.  "What do you want to eat?" I know they can't read yet but it engages them in conversation and will buy you some time. Since Winter is learning her numbers, we play games with the menu either asking her to read the prices out or calling a number out and have her try to find it.  Once that is done, the crayons and paper come out. I bring this with me almost everywhere. dont even need a whole pack - 2 or 3 colors will suffice!

 3. Feed them first. When we first sit down to the table, I'll quickly scan the menu and order something for them to eat before we even put drink orders in. Most restaurants usually take at least 20-30 min to get the main dish out so I try to avoid hangry toddlers by just having them eat asap. If it's more of a high-brow menu, I'll usually ask the waiter for suggestions and more often than not, the chef is happy to make something a little simpler or we'll go adventurous and I'll hold off on the details of what they're eating til AFTER they ate it lol.  "this is yummy pasta"  and not mention the rabbit.
4. Pull out the big guns when they're finished so that we parents can enjoy our meals.  And by that I mean the ipad/iphone/etc.  I know some parents prohibit this from the table and I get it, but I especially use these when traveling (why can't I enjoy my meal in this new place?!) or when wait times are especially long and even I'm starting to get impatient.
5. Dine and dash.  Well not exactly don't pay the bill but we tend to eat quicker with when the girls are with us.  The restlessness sets in, they get to curious mode and you hear yourself being all parent-y saying "put that down!" "don't play with that" "do NOT stick that pasta up your nose!"  this doesn't mean we rush through eating, it just means I'm pro-active in ordering the next course or asking for the check as soon as they're setting down our dessert. This is to shorten wait times all around and the restaurant loves you because they get to turn your table over quicker.  

SO there you have it - do you have any tips for eating out?
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