Eating out with kids of any age can sometimes feel like a minefield: sometimes you get through it unscathed, and other times, an unexpected explosion leaves everyone ducking for cover.
Eating out with kids is different to eating out with babies.
Of course, once kids are older, they can play in a designated play area, might have a little more patience for sitting still, or the holy grail: sit and quietly colour in, read or play on an iPad while the adults eat at a normal pace.
But now, when your child is a baby you’re in a whole different phase of eating out with kids. And in this ‘baby’ phase there are two distinctly different periods when it comes to dining out.
If your baby is under six months old, or not crawling:
GO GO GO to your favourite café now. This is the best window for eating out you are going to get in the next few years; you can sip coffee and they don’t want to touch it. You can read the paper while they nap, without you feeling you’re screwing up their whole day’s routine. And they won’t be “UH UH UH”ing until you set them free to roam the restaurant, while you follow behind in the form of a benevolent security guard.
If your baby is six to 12 months old, and mobile:
Each time you are eating in a restaurant, café or pub, you’ll be hoping that a few of the following stars align to keep the experience a low-stress one.
1. You’ll be hoping there is some sort of high chair.
This is hit and miss, so when you’re travelling we recommend bringing your own portable version – here are the two portable high chair solutions we like the most for babies.
2. You’ll get good at scanning a menu to see if it will work for your child.
Depending on where you’re at with feeding solids you may not care what’s on menu other than what you as an adult would like to eat. But somewhere between the six months and 12 month mark, your child will be – hopefully – off the purees and eating at least some ‘family foods’ (ie: the same as you.) When they are, eating out gets a little simpler. At this stage there will either pick at your food and fill up, or if you order about 50% more then theoretically they will fill up on that. (The theoretically part is because they’ll also probably be throwing a lot on the floor, or at the very least missing their mouth. A good travel-ready bib helps, as does a sense of humour.)
3. You’ll be praying the food arrives quickly.
No, we don’t advocate “fast food” in the franchise/chain sense because the salt and sugar contents will be too high for all ages, but by the same token, you don’t want to be wasting your baby’s goodwill at sitting patiently in the highchair while the food takes an eternity to arrive. Buffets are superb at this stage. You can be in and out quickly, you can start eating minutes after you arrive, and is plenty of choice if your child rejects suggestion one, two and three, even though these may “technically” be their favourites.