What’s that kid doing here?
Having a toddler doesn’t mean you can’t dine like a human occasionally.
(Getty Images)
Just because you are a parent doesn’t mean you are doomed to ‘family’ restaurants for the rest of your life! Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a good ‘family’ restaurant, just not every time you go out. It also gets pretty difficult trying to convince your non-parent friends to eat with you at a place where the decor is balloons and the main ambience is screaming kids running in and out of the play room.

You can still go to ‘normal’ restaurants. It takes some planning, but soon becomes second nature.

When to go?

This depends entirely on your child’s sleeping schedule. Breakfast and lunches are generally easier than dinners, but there’s nothing wrong with an early dinner for you/ late night for your kids every now and again for a special treat! It is best to avoid peak times as your kids can get in the way of other patrons and restaurant staff.

Phone ahead

Make a reservation ahead of the time and let the restaurant know that you are bringing children. Most places have high chairs so find out if they do, and ask them to have them at the table for you when you arrive. If they don’t have, take a clip-on one if possible, or just use your pram and use the tray as the table.

Make sure you take some toys to keep your children entertained. Ensure that these are going to encourage your child to sit at the table and play with them (colouring books, crayons and stories are great). Have respect for other diners and avoid taking noisy toys and balls! Also get creative with what the restaurant has -- most pizza restaurants will give you some dough for your kid to play with.

Depending on what your child normally eats, it’s easy to make a plan at a restaurant. Most places will happily reheat some puréed food. If your child is on finger foods,  you can easily make do without a ‘kiddies menu’. A piece of grilled fish, some baby tomatoes and carrot sticks can easily be rustled up by most kitchens. Order your child’s food straight away, this way he won’t get irritable and hungry. Take your child’s regular bottle or cup with you and ask the waiter to pour your child’s drink directly into it. If you don’t have this, take-away coffee cups with lids and a straw make a great substitute.

Bathroom breaks
Sadly, not many restaurants have baby-changing facilities, so pack a fold-up travel changing mat and an empty plastic bag to take your dirty nappy with you if necessary.

Bill please
Don’t forget to leave your waiter a good tip. Chances are he has had to run around picking up toys, cleaning half-chewed toasted cheese off the floor and wiping down the table every 3 minutes!

Don’t drink and drive
Lastly, watch the amount of booze you drink. Not only do you have to drive home, it’s a lot more difficult to run after a toddler after a few too many.

Do you take your toddler to 'normal' restaurants? What was the experience like?

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