Maintaining Our Old Life: Restaurant Tricks for Toddlers

When I first made my IG account public and started this blog it was just around the time that I gave birth to Miss Lace and because of that, I realize that the majority of people who might read my blog don’t know my “pre baby life” very well. To make up for that, I’ll give you a quick snapshot of what my life was like before having babies.. My hubby and I were like any other happy, carefree, stain-free, stress-free, responsibility-free, fly by the seat of our pants, living the spontaneous life, never sick with head colds couple, who always seemed to have extra money burning a hole in our pocket to spend on ourselves! 😛 My husband and I loved to travel (a lot!), eat out at new restrautants and go shopping! We really didn’t rush to have kids because we enjoyed these aspects of our life and to be honest, were worried that having kids would remove all of those wonderful things from us… And, I’m not going to lie, it’s somewhat true. The reality of having kids is that much of those parts of our life have drastically declined. However, the other wonderful part is that we are experiencing our old life in a whole new way with our babes by our side and learning new tricks along the way! Including how to save yourself some money while shopping on Amazon for toddler products up until May 10! See below for details. 😉

While pregnant with Miss Lace, I vowed to my hubby that we would keep up with our old lifestyle to some level; kids or not. He thought this was a great idea and because we were on the same page with it I think we have done a pretty good job maintaining this. That being said, I also realize that we could still be doing an even better job! I like eating at restaurants and having kids was not going to stop me from exploring new places to eat with my husband. Don’t get me wrong, I still value a date night alone with my hubby, especially when the place is a tad on the fancier side, but when that’s not possible or when I want to include my kids with us, these are the tricks I have in Miss Lace’s backpack to keep her happy and content throughout our whole meal experience. Similar to my post on airplane toys, these are the items that have saved the day many times!

Disclaimer: I understand that an iPhone could also do the trick and that many people choose to do this at restaurants. For our family, we have made the decision not to provide our children with a screen while eating out and we try our best to limit the amount she is exposed to in all environments. The ideas below are non-screen based only!

BOOKS! I have many books for Ems that I hide away and keep only for restaurant outings. Actually, that rule goes for all of these items. I don’t let Ems see these restaurant toys on a daily basis because then the fun and novelty of the items would wear off and no longer serve the purpose that I need them to serve! I keep all of these special items in a bag in my mudroom, high up and away from little hands. When we are about to go out, I grab a few and toss them in my daughter’s backpack. I am constantly changing which ones I bring depending on her interests and where we are going. I often pick books with flaps such as this one or more recently, I Spy type books such as this one, which keeps her busy/engaged for a long time. That I Spy book in particular has pictures in it as well as words so it’s great for her age and is easy for her to understand. If you saw my post last week on our Bedtime Routine you might have noticed in the pictures that Ems is loving Peppa Pig books. We have this box set which is a great value as it comes with six different Peppa books! You might have also noticed in my last post that I was working with Playtex Baby™ and sharing #ForBetterBeginnings on how important I believe reading is with my kids. As a #PlaytexMom I often read throughout the day with them, sometimes before naps, often at restaurants and always at bedtime! Playtex Baby™ right now is offering a #PlaytexReads Promotion of $5 off any toddler book and Playtex Baby™ product (Diaper Genie®, Diaper Genie bag refills, Sipster cups, bottles, Playtex® Nurser with Drop-Ins® Liners, etc.) when purchased together on Amazon. Click HERE for more information and use the code ‘PLAYTEXREADS‘ at checkout to receive the discount.

We have a travel size Magna Doodle that we bought for our trip to Hawaii last year and it is still a huge hit with Ems. We almost always take it with us and she loves that she draw on it and then erase it herself. Many places sell them in a smaller, travel form which tucks away nicely in her backpack and doesn’t take up that much room!

No matter where we are going I always carry a snack container with us. We love our Twist ‘n Click Snacker™ container because the lid flips under itself which is great so we don’t lose the lid and it’s spill proof, so it doesn’t end up spilling all over my diaper bag or purse! (You can add this snack container to your cart here along with a book and get the snack container practically for free when you use the discount code!) When we are out, I am always careful not to ruin Miss Lace’s appetite with a large snack but something simple like cheerios I find doesn’t fill her up and instead keeps her occupied when we are waiting for food. It also prevents hangriness from setting in if the food is taking longer than normal!

Stickers! Such an easy and light item to carry that keeps her occupied for quite some time. I also bring a small notebook along that she can put them all in so they don’t end up on tables, chairs or more recently, on baby brother’s face..

I almost always bring colouring with us because as much as most restaurants have colouring pages for kids, I’ve also learned that many don’t (especially if they are promoting a more higher end dining experience). Miss Lace now comes to expect that there will be colouring when we go out to eat and is quite disappointed when they don’t have anything for her. I have bought a few of these velcro pouch type ones (see the school bus in the first picture) from the Target dollar bins. She especially likes them because they have their own spots for crayons as well as a spot for a notepad.

These little soft books I have also found a few different times in the Target dollar bins and they are fantastic. Light to carry and once again promoting reading. I love that they have little pieces that she can also play with!The latest toy I picked up which I had shared on my IG stories a couple weeks back is this On The Go Water Wow! Color Reveal Pad by Melissa and Doug which Miss Lace is obsessed with. They come in a bunch of different themes such as princesses, farms, trucks, etc. All you need to do is add water to the pen which then allows your child to brush colours onto the pages. It also has a seek and find aspect to it which she loves! No mess as it’s just water and once the pages dry, you can do it all over again!These are just some of of the items that I bring with me when we go out to eat with Miss Lace to keep her happy. Other items we sometimes use are a wallet which I’ve filled with old gift cards that she can put in and out of the different spots. I also sometimes bring along play sets that are tiny such as Disney’s Frozen Little Kingdom. We also do stamps from time to time but not as often as they can be a bit messier and need to be watched more closely.

When we go out for dinner, we always eat early, usually around 5 pm (with all of the early bird diners!). This way we can avoid a crowded, busy restaurant, which can add to the chaos and possibly delay our food coming out in a timely manner. I also know that there’s less of a chance at this time of day to ruin someone else’s dining experience if it doesn’t go as well as I had hoped. Because, let’s be honest, as prepared as we can be going in, we still can’t always predict or control a two year old’s mind! My hubby and I also always make reservations when we can to avoid waiting, but also to ensure a high chair or booster seat is available. I can’t count how many times we have shown up to a restaurant right at 5 pm to find the place completely deserted. We sheepishly say to the greeter that we have a reservation, feeling ridiculously silly because all the tables are empty as no one else in the city is eating at that time. When this happens we laugh at ourselves as we know the reservation probably didn’t have to be made but we do it anyway to ensure we get what we need with kids. There’s always a chance the place could be busy or what I’ve personally experienced at one particular local restaurant (no names will be mentioned :P) is that the one highchair in the place is already taken.

This is what we do to keep up our old lifestyle (to some level!) when we go out to eat with kids. Does anyone else have any toys or tricks they use for travelling or eating at restaurants with kids? Share below if you do; I’m always looking for more suggestions to keep my old, pre-baby lifestyle and habits going strong!

*This post was sponsored by Playtex Baby™ but all opinions, pictures and content are my own.

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