As you may have read, Henry’s first food experience was at a restaurant. Before Henry was born, Daddy and I ate out frequently. We don’t eat out as much now that Henry is here, but we occasionally visit our favorite local restaurants.
You really can enjoy a meal out with a baby, but it does take a bit of preparation and some flexibility. Here are a few tips we’ve learned for eating out with Henry.
Bring along a few receiving blankets. Many restaurants offer the square wooden high chairs. These are quite wide for small children and do not offer much support. We roll a couple of receiving blankets and place them behind Henry to give him a bit of extra cushioning.
|We place a few rolled-up blankets behind Henry for oversized restaurant high chairs.|
Don’t expect a high chair. While most places have high chairs, some do not. We bring along a travel high chair for those times when the restaurant does not have them available. Otherwise, you may end up balancing your child in one arm while you try to eat with your other hand.
|Henry sits in his travel high chair at the frozen yogurt shop.|
Bring a pack of wipes. Restaurant napkins are not adequate for cleaning up after the messes made by small children. Henry also mistakes napkins as food and will try to eat them. Paper napkins fall apart quickly and Henry is an expert at shredding them. Cloth napkins are frequently not enough to finish the job either. Wipes are also good for cleaning off the high chair and table before you set your child down.
Bring a small toy. It can take a little time for restaurants to prepare your order. Having a favorite toy on-hand keeps Henry entertained while we wait for our meal. I especially like my Chewbeads necklace for this purpose. I can securely attach it to Henry’s high chair so it does not fall on the floor and he will spend several minutes gnawing on the beads. We also ask for extra spoons or straws to keep Henry occupied.
|A spoon and a necklace keep Henry occupied while we wait for our meal.|
Order food with your child in mind. Henry eats food from our plates so I try to choose entrees that will work for him too. Instead of soup, I get a side salad with slices of tomato and cucumber. Instead of mash potatoes, I go with sautéed vegetables. These are foods Henry can handle easily. Restaurant portions tend to be large enough that I don’t mind sharing with him. In addition, Daddy and I typically order iced tea to drink. Henry doesn’t need any caffeine, so we order a child’s glass of water for him. He also likes sucking on the lemon that comes with our glasses of iced tea.
Don’t be afraid to leave early. Sometimes restaurant meals just do not end up working with Henry. He might need a nap or is just in a cranky mood. If we can’t settle him down, we will ask for our meal to be boxed up to go. If we are almost finished with our meal, I might walk Henry around the block or take him out to the car while Daddy settles the check.
Tip your waiter well. Henry will make a mess. He will drop spoons on the floor. He will smear food on the table. The wait staff will need to make an extra effort to clean up after we leave, so we make sure to treat our servers nicely and tip them well. We also try to get Henry to smile at the servers and let them know how much we appreciate their hard work.
I hope these recommendations leave you a little more confident for eating out with a baby. What makes eating out easier with your small child?