The life of a parent changes a lot after pregnancy and childbirth. During pregnancy, while women enjoy the attention they get from the family and pampered well, the sacrifices of parents start from there. We women, take care of ourselves a lot during pregnancy, eat healthy food, try to be stress-free and happy. But, we avoid junk food and reduce outside food. Sometimes, even our hormones and mood doesn't help in dining at a restaurant with our beloved. After childbirth, the scenario is entirely different. Until the baby reaches 6 months of age, breastfeeding moms have a lot of food restrictions and they have to be available all around the clock to tend to the baby and take rest whenever possible. After 6 months, it is a tough time for moms, going back to the office(if, working), managing stress, introducing solid foods to toddlers and handling their tantrums. But, this is the right time for the couple to think about 'couple time'/ private time once again and plan dinner dates.
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We too tried going on a dinner date with the little one by the side when he was 1 year old. But, it was not that great experience with kid banging on the table with plates and forks, making a mess on the table and sometimes even climbing on the table and crawling to the food. The experience was not pleasant and we could feel the harsh looks from other diners too. As a parent, we learn from previous mistakes, experiment new methods, follow tips, understand kids better and grow up with them. These are some tips which helped us to keep our cool while dining with the toddler.
1. Selection of the restaurant
The selection of a right restaurant makes a hell lot of difference. If children love the place, they are less cranky and more observant. There are many themed restaurants these days in India like a rain forest environment with fountains and animals or a cave themed one or one with a beach environment or a restaurant with model trains or flights. In US, anyways, a few restaurants have play areas inside so that children won't get bored. We choose a restaurant which is kid friendly. Kids might be interested in eating quick and playing, while we can keep an eye on them and have a cool talk.
2. Choosing a right time
It's important that we choose a time to visit the restaurant when the toddler is not cranky. When kids are too hungry or too sleepy, they start tantrums in any new place. I feed something to my toddler before we leave to the restaurant - at least a fruit or a cookie so that he won't be very hungry and also not full. We choose a time at least half an hour before his usual dinner/ lunch time. We always avoid the times when he usually sleeps.
3. Selecting a kid friendly starter
We always see to it that there is a kid friendly starter before main meal is served so that my toddler can munch and be comfortable in the restaurant. Carrot sticks in a dip or cucumber sticks or papad or nuggets or french fries are good to bring cheerful mood and reduce crankiness.
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4. Keeping cutlery away and choosing a proper seat
I think every parent agrees with me that fragile plates, glasses, spoons and forks should be kept away from toddlers. They play with these forks and glasses and there is a high possibility of breaking them or banging them on the table. If a restaurant provides high chairs specific for toddlers, it's great. Else, it is better to prefer a sofa seat and put them near the wall so that they cannot run the restaurant at their will. I prefer making my toddler sit near the side of the table so that it is easy to feed to him while we eat and it is also easy to keep all cutlery away.
5. Backup plan if nothing else works
Whatever care we take, toddlers are unpredictable. I keep a backup plan like walking him around if he gets bored, showing some pictures on my phone or asking him to pose for a photo or asking him to identify vegetables and colors in the restaurant designs. Some restaurants in the US also provide crayons and coloring sheets which are a relief. We anyways know that we can show rhymes on youtube with low volume at worst case.
I wish you have a good dinner date with your spouse and toddler with peace following above tips. Please do let me know if any of these tips really help you. Also, I would love to know other tips and recommendations.
Until next time,