We have all seen it when eating in a restaurant.  Screaming kids running around, throwing food, spilling drinks all over.  Mom looking exhausted (or oblivious!) and other patrons upset all around them.  Eating out with a toddler doesn’t need to be like this!

Planning, flexibility and some great toddler restaurant toys can make dining out an enjoyable time by all (including other restaurant patrons).

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. My full disclosure policy can be found here.

Eating at restaurant with a toddler – why it’s different

toddler at a restuarant

First things first. I’m saying this as a friend, so don’t get mad….You now have a toddler and dining out will be different. Sorry!

1.  You might not get to eat all your food…at least not in one sitting.

2.  You won’t be able to have adult conversation fluidly – “what were we talking about?” Will be said often.

3.  You won’t stay as long

4.  You probably won’t stay seated the whole time

5.  You will pack a bag of distractions – toddler restaurant toys – toys only dedicated for toddler restaurant trips and car rides.

Once you are comfortable with this you can go in with realistic expectations and actually enjoy the experience.

Related: Looking for an activity to do before the restaurant? Here are my favorite toddler activities (indoor & outdoor ideas)

Toddler Restuarant Toys

Before you Leave the Restaurant:

 

 Look for reviews and ensure they are family friendly. This ensures staff will be used to serving families and will be flexible and understanding.  Make sure they:

  • Have a kids menu or family deal
  • Have high chairs or booster seats
  • Have reviews that say they are family friendly

2.  Nap: make sure your toddler has had a good nap and that you won’t be at the restaurant too long, so they will be able to stick to their bedtime routine.

A tired toddler is not a nice toddler. 

3.  Make a Game Plan. If you are going with your partner, talk about how you will handle situations.

  • Agree that if they get fussy one parent will take them for a walk.
  • Agree it’s ok for the other parent to finish eating and take turns. That way there is no resentment if the dinner takes a turn for the worst.
  • Agree to take turns helping your toddler with whatever they need.
  • Agree to leave it it’s just not working.

4.  Pack a bag of toddler restaurant toys that can be played solo or can get the whole table involved.  Here are my favorite Toddler Restaurant toys:

 

10 Favorite Toddler Restaurant Toys

1.  Busy Book 

Busy Books are great for toddlers in a restaurant.  They do what they say – they keep their little hands busy with zippers, buttons, clasps etc.  They can get pricey – but this version isn’t too bad and will keep your toddler entertained while you order. Great for the car too!

Buy it on Etsy

2.  Matching Game

Any matching game will do, but I like this version because its wood (so the pieces can handle a juice spill at a restaurant) and they come in an adorable bag that’s easy for travel. 

Matching games can be played all together which is a great time filler while you wait for the food to arrive. 

Buy it on Etsy

3. Playdoh

Playdoh is so versatile and you and your toddler can play together.  This pack is meant to be a party bag favor, but is also the perfect size to toss in your bag before heading out the door.  

Buy it on Amazon

4. Food Matching Game

Make the restaurant a little classroom and play this matching game with a food theme.  Take the cards out of the box and pack in a ziploc bag to keep them safe and save room in your bag.  

Buy it on Amazon

5. Resuable Color with Water Pads

These no-mess coloring pads are a staple in our house. Great while I am making my daughter’s dinner and they are just as great in a car or in a restaurant because they are no mess. Just fill the pen with water and your toddler can color away.

Buy it on Amazon

6. Pocket Pouch Magnetic Wooden Block Set

These blocks have built-in magnets so they won’t fall down as easily when your toddler is playing with them.  They are also made in Honduras with the goal of creating fair trade jobs for local residents – bonus!

Buy it on Amazon

7.  Activity Book

An activity book your toddler hasn’t seen before is a GREAT way to keep them entertained after they finish their meal.  

Buy it on Amazon.

8. Lift the Flap Book

My daughter has loved lift the flap books since she was very young and they still keep her entertained as a toddler.  This book has a “search” component which is great for older toddlers while you grab an after dinner coffee. 

Buy it on Amazon

9. Puzzle

If your toddler is older and putting puzzles together, these can be great to keep them busy on at the table.  To save space you can put the pieces in a ziploc bag. 

Puzzles can also become family games if you all take turns adding in a piece. 

Buy these on Amazon

10.  Coloring Book

Sometimes family friendly restaurants provide crayons and a coloring book, but if they don’t these mess free coloring books from Crayola are great.  No mess and lots of fun for toddlers.

Buy on Amazon

I’m sure you noticed I didn’t mention electronics, like an iPad.

Full disclosure: Sure, I let my toddler watch tv at home and let her watch YouTube on my phone during long drives, BUT at a restaurant I try to avoid this.

I want to teach my toddler that this is family time and an experience.  She needs to be involved and present. I’d rather pick toys we can all play with together.

BUT if it’s going to avoid a meltdown – I would give it to her so I could pay and leave. I don’t want her sitting there with a screen in her face not engaged. We are paying to go out so let’s have fun!

Related: 

Have A Conversation With Your Toddler To Boost Their IQ

Mom in the Six

Mom in the Six Blog Bio Photo

Welcome to Mom in the Six!

Hi! I’m Christina, a first time mom navigating motherhood in Toronto, Canada.  I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child, so I decided to start blogging to share my ups and downs and nuggets of wisdom in hopes it helps someone going through the same thing.

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