How We Dined Out For 34 Consecutive Meals With A Toddler

26th July 2017

Dining out with kids

We are a family that dines out. A lot. At a week old, we took CJ out to his first restaurant. He’s now three and one would imagine he’s had plenty of practice honing his dining etiquette but let me tell you, the struggle is STILL real!

Sidenote: if you live or are visiting Toronto, check out my restaurant guide for families.

In our most recent vacation to Spain, we didn’t bother cooking in the tiny European kitchens so for 17 days, we ate at restaurants. That is 34 meals with a super rambunctious toddler. Yikes!

So how did we pull it off with just a few stained shirts?!?!

Well it definitely took more than a dozen trinkets to keep him entertained. And we obviously couldn’t keep offering his favourite foods — corn on the cob and chocolate cake!

Eating out with kids

Early in the trip CJ kept asking us why the waiter didn’t bring his ‘sert’ (that’s what he calls dessert). After several attempts of explaining that the ‘sert’ is the last course, and a round of endless ‘whys’ (yes, we are in that phase)… we took the opportunity to gamify the situation.

Each time the waiter walked by, we would say something like ‘oh he’s coming this way to see if your plate is cleared’… this prompted him to quickly eat his salad but then the veggie burger came and he got distracted with playing with the bun.


Since there was other patrons, it was easy to show him examples. ‘Look that lady finished her pasta so now she gets a big ice cream’ or ‘see that man with his half eaten soup? That’s what happens, the waiter walked right by and he didn’t get any sert!’

If the waiter did appear with a dessert, we would say ‘there he is, let’s see if you are the lucky one to get it’. And when he walked right by our table, we said ‘oh bummer, guess he doesn’t think you ate enough’ <– this got CJ really excited and he finishes his meal and was rewarded with chocolate cake.

Tips for eating out with kids

The key is to have fun with it and get really creative involving the staff and customers (discreetly of course). Since our waiter had no clue that we were basically scheming to get our child to eat, it made everything that much more hilarious for hubby + I. And of course, it got CJ staying focused on his food.

We’ve been playing our dining game for two months now and it’s still working! Give it a try the next time you are at a restaurant and let me know how it goes.


Related Post

2 thoughts on “How We Dined Out For 34 Consecutive Meals With A Toddler

  1. Darlynne

    You guys are brave! Toddler and vegan meals, the story of my life. It’s going to get more challenging when we get to the land of spice! Amazing how long you’ve been doing it, and doing it well.

    1. Wendy Post author

      Like most things, key is to expose them when they are babies and keep practicing! Many families give up after the first few restaurant tantrums, but young kids change week to week, so keep trying. Unless it’s fine dining, most people get it and sympathize haha. We always had hectic work schedules and rarely cooked at home so when we had CJ, we just naturally fit him into our existing lifestyle. It’s pretty easy when you are right smack in the city – so many options and other families doing it too! But yes, there have been many times when we would have to take turns eating while the other is walking around in circles trying to get him to sleep in his stroller!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *