I always feel funny putting “how to” in the title when it pertains to kids. Because let’s be honest, do any of us really know “how to” do anything the perfect way when it comes to parenting? I do hope the title caught your eye though! Taking toddlers out in public anywhere is typically a sure fire way to increase a parent’s blood pressure. I know it definitely used to for me!
I honestly wasn’t even thinking about writing on this topic until an experience I had last week. Last Wednesday was one of those days where a lot of errands had to happen and nap time was not going to happen. I prepped myself mentally for the worst, but instead it was one of my best days with the girls.
We weren’t able to eat lunch until late. So, around 2 PM I decided to take the girls to Mi Cocina. Y’all, I rarely take them to a sit down restaurant by myself. It’s just a lot, haha. I was nervous a little, but it was the closest kid-friendly place. I may have also had visions of drinking a marg… It wasn’t in the cards for me.
Anyway, I went in expecting multiple breakdowns and yet it was the most enjoyable public dinner I’ve had yet with the girls. It wasn’t until later on that night that I started to break down the day and determine if there was anything different about that experience compared to previous outings. And, I actually think there was and that’s what I’m so excited to share with y’all!
Before going into the specifics about that day and our successful public outing. There are a couple of rules Trav and I have lived by with our girls since day 1. These are things we believe will help them to be able to succeed in a public setting. We believe these things will help them learn to be patient, to wait, to control their behavior, to speak to adults clearly and look adults in the eye, etc.
- avoid technology at all costs – I am the first to admit that we’ve pulled out our iPhone for a quick youtube video to keep Abby quiet. However, it’s only happened at dinners that were 2+ hours long. Typically, we leave electronics at home – no matter how awful it makes it for us. We figure that it might be bad for awhile, but eventually, our girls will learn to sit and wait and carry on a conversation with others.
- seat them with adults – we are also intentional about sitting kids at the adult table when we go out. It helps them practice patience and practice having conversations with people other than mommy and daddy.
- remain at the table as long as possible – we try to keep our kids at the table as long as possible so they learn to sit. We don’t offer up leaving the table to walk around as an option. Are there times when it needs to happen? Yes. If the girls are throwing a fit that’s disrupting other tables, we remove them immediately and then enter back in when they’re calm.
- abide by the normal rules – believe it or not, there does come a time when your littles don’t need sippy cups or mini spoons anymore. Once we left that stage we had our girls follow the etiquette rules everyone else does – napkin in your lap, holding utensils correctly, etc.
Onto my once in a lifetime experience with the girls. There were several things about this outing that made a perfect storm for perfect behavior – despite no naps! These are also tips that I think would be great if you’re just starting to bring your littles to public restaurants or places.
- time of day – avoid the “popular” meal times at all costs. We went at 2pm and I think that played a huge role in their behavior. There were minimal people, the noise level was low, and the energy level was low. It also took my anxiety down because I didn’t feel like we would be disturbing as many people.
- lots of convo – I left my phone in my purse during this meal and just brought up topic after topic and question after question with my girls. I kept them engaged in who we saw in there, what the restaurant looked like, what they liked about the food, what their favorite part of the day was, etc. It kept them engaged and focused on talking rather than hitting each other or throwing food. Haha.
- mental prep – I am a big fan of mental prep. I use it with my speech kids and it works great with my own. I prepped the girls for Mi Cocina before we ever walked in. I told them what it would look like, where the table would be, how ordering goes, what they could order, etc. It helped them plan it out and know what to expect.
- chips help – I mean, they do though. Opting for Mexican food really isn’t such a bad idea with littles. The chips help fill that gap while you’re waiting for your food. It’s great! And it’s great for mommies, too!
I hope this helps! And as always, please let me know what your tips and tricks are!