We’ve been very fortunate that since we’ve had Henry (and before too) we’ve been able to eat out quite a bit. I do a fair amount of restaurant reviews and collaborate with Sotonbloggers a lot with events and reviews too, which means plenty of opportunities to go out for dinner.
Obviously being parents, we don’t often (I think we’ve managed twice in 12 months) eat out just the two of us, and generally take Henry with us (thank goodness for understanding PRs) and of course we eat out as a three, or more, outside of reviews too!
With Southampton developing so much at the moment we’ve certainly been making the most of getting out to eat, and of course we ate out every night whilst we were on holiday. So we’ve become pretty savvy at taking a baby/almost toddler out for a meal and what to do to make it stress-free and enjoyable an occasion as possible.
Now, disclaimer time!! Of course this is just based on what has worked for us over the last year, and it doesn’t always work 100% of time, because, as all parents will understand, sometimes kids just do not want to play ball no matter how hard you try. But more often than not we have successful trips out (i.e. everyone gets to eat their meal, and generally whilst it is still hot too!! Win!!)
With Henry being nearly a year old, he is most definitely on the move, and of course, eating food too, so this post will be mostly aimed at this age group, though I’m sure it can be applied across younger and older littles too.
We always have some of Henry’s own snacks with us when we’re out, no matter what. These come in handy for keeping him happy whilst we wait for food to be brought to the table as at home he is used to being seated as food is ready, and not really having to wait, which of course isn’t going to happen in most restaurants. It also means we can bulk up his lunch/dinner with the bits we have from home, in case there isn’t something he likes on the menu. We usually have puffs, rice cakes and some sort of baby biscuit as an absolute minimum – Ella’s Kitchen has fast become one of our absolute favourites because of their amazing range.
We keep a mix of toys in our changing bag, that are only played with when we are out of the house. This keeps them interesting. Again, these are great for whilst waiting to order and for before the food arrives. They can also be handy whilst waiting for the bill too.
Henry was baby led weaned so is used to handling food and sharing from our plates as he hasn’t really done much in the way of purees or his own foods. We usually find that if he’s offered food from our plate he’ll generally eat it straight away. Generally we order what ever we fancy, and depending on what we order, we’ll get a Henry-appropriate side dish, usually veggies or sweet potatoes fries, depending on where we are. This also means he generally he eats with us so he is busy doing something so we can also eat.
We generally try to stick to his normal routine when it comes to eating out, so will dine where at around the same time as we would eat at home. Yes it is always a longer time, so bedtime will be later, but it means the chance of a hangry meltdown is far less likely, and no one wants a hangry meltdown, especially in public! This also means the restaurant is generally a bit quieter, as we usually arrive around 5pm, so food tends to come out faster, and if Henry needs to shout a little or get some wiggles out, we aren’t disturbing too many people.
We try to make sure that Henry gets as much of our attention as possible whilst we’re out, especially when waiting for food. Sometimes this means going for a little wander before our food arrives, or whilst we wait for the bill. The places that provide some sort of entertainment are the best kind. I think my favourite was L’Osteria who provide little bubble packs which are brilliant.
6. The Bill
This is a new one that we are just starting to test out after reading this tips post from Love Taza, which is asking for the bill when your food arrives, so you can pay whilst you are still eating. Probably the worst part of eating out is waiting for the bill, let’s be honest, even when you don’t have kids, no one likes waiting when all you want to do is curl up on the sofa after a good meal. With kids it’s 100x worse as they haven’t yet learned that patience is a virtue (apparently). Hopefully this will work out well, though it does mean we’ll have to decide if we want desserts early one – though this is fairly rare for us!
So there’s my tips for eating out with a baby, which hopefully you’ll find handy. What’s your top tip for a family dinner out of the house?