One of life’s greatest pleasures is enjoying the food on your travels. Pre-kids I would spend ages researching New York’s greatest deli or Hoi An’s best bowl of pho. Whilst I still gain huge satisfaction in eating my way around the world, I also now have to factor in Little Miss Jetlag & Mayhem. At ages six and three, we are now at the phase where can just about get through a meal.. and enjoy it! There’s no hunt for a highchair, no frantically picking up cutlery that’s been thrown on the floor and no relentlessly pushing the buggy up and down the street outside whilst your other half enjoys their meal. That said, it’s still not plain sailing. Now my six year old can read, I can’t ‘healthily edit’ the menu for her. She spies the fries and she wants them. My three year old also rotates her food preferences so quickly that I can’t keep up with the flavour of the month. I recently had the pleasure of dining with my 20 mth old nephew Sam on a family holiday. He is the inspiration behind today’s post!
- If you really dread mealtimes with your little ones, choose a self catering holiday where you can have your own kitchen and control your meals.
- Before you go, think about what food items you may need to pack from food pouches to a portable highchair. It’s always worth checking in advance with your accommodation to see what they have available. Similarly, when you venture out for a meal on vacation, bring the toddler feeding equipment. Don’t rely on restaurants to have plastic cutlery etc.
- When eating out, don’t make things difficult for yourself and choose family friendly restaurants. You can pretty much find anything on the internet including reviews, menus, family friendly features etc.
- Factor in the amount of time it will take for you to get to the restaurant and your food to be received. If I think it might take a while, I offer my kids healthy snacks before we get there or even at the table. Best to pre-empt a hunger tantrum!
- Whenever there’s an external dining option, choose it! There’s much less pressure on your kids to be quiet and it’s also more convenient for making a mess.
- Put your toddler in a high chair, even if they don’t initially want to. Otherwise they will run around causing mischief.
- Remove any cutlery/glasses in reach! It’s amazing how quickly kids hone in on the steak knives…
- Always ask for a children’s menu. Not everywhere has one but if you don’t ask, you won’t know.
- On ordering, tell the wait staff you are happy for the kids meals to arrive before the adults
- Bring an arsenal of activities with you from stickers and colouring to play figurines and books (look at the stack of stuff we had at a French restaurant below!). I personally do not allow the iPad at the table. I get really annoyed when I see families eating together and one kid is watching the iPad whilst a parent is scrolling through their phone. Eating together is the perfect opportunity for family time in a world where we can’t escape being glued to a screen.
- Be strict with your kids, this is the way to great table manners. My mother in law told me she would never let her kids leave the table growing up. Whilst all the other kids would be running around, hers would be sitting still, impeccably behaved. Whilst I used to roll my eyes at this piece of advice, I now practice it and hope for the best.
- Always pack baby wipes – even if your kids are at school age! It’s amazing how messy they get.
- Think carefully about whether your child is old enough to drink from a glass! Restaurants in the US are great about providing paper cups with lids and straws. However, elsewhere you might have to provide your own so it’s always best to pack sippy cups etc.
- Expect to spend a lot of time picking up items from the floor, rushing your meal, disciplining children and feeling a bit irate.
- Don’t put high expectations on your little ones. They are small, hungry people with short attention spans. If you want to enjoy that Michelin starred meal then do yourself a favour and book a babysitter!
Fore tips on food and toddlers, here are child-rearing guru Deborah Taylor’s ideas