Lately I’ve been realizing that even though we’re trying to cut back on our expenses, it’s worth the cost to plan for eating dinner somewhere other than our house at least a couple times per week.
I don’t know about your household, but mine drops straight down the rabbit hole between 5-8 PM or so. The kids are restless, the baby is cranky, my husband and I are wiped out, and yet life must march on, hopefully with a minimum of screaming. So it’s in our best interest to get the heck out of Dodge, and since spending time outside isn’t a great option yet, this usually means heading out for a meal.
We usually go to a nearby mall, because that’s the easiest place to manage small, loud, messy children, but even in the noise and chaos of a food court it’s a real challenge to keep the kids at least marginally entertained (and stationary) long enough for the adults to bolt our teriyaki bowls or whatever. Assuming we ever ate in a real restaurant like civilized people, I’m sure it would be even harder to keep the distractions coming, and as most of you probably know a baby will only play quietly with a spoon for so long before everything goes to hell in a (tantruming) handbasket.
So, are there products that can help make dining in public with kids a little easier? Happily, the answer is yes:
Sassy Baby highchair toys. These colorful, spinning things can be suctioned to a highchair tray. No more leaning over to pick up thrown toys! Of course, if your baby is like mine, you’ll then have to deal with the howls of frustration that are triggered by not being able to throw the flipping toy, but you might get a minute or two of distraction first.
Neat Solutions Table Toppers. Festooned with characters and “educational designs”, the Table Topper is a stick-on placemat that keeps your kids’ food away from germy surfaces.
Floor Topper Mess Mats. Another good idea from the Neat Solutions people, you can use these disposable (but re-usable, if you prefer) mats to protect floor surfaces wherever you go. The busboy will surely thank you.
Chicco Caddy Hook on Chair. We have this and it’s awesome. The Chicco Caddy is a portable canvas chair that fastens to any table edge — super easy to carry and set up.
Cooshee Booster Seat. Ooh, this looks cool — it’s a molded foam booster seat for older kids that supposedly doesn’t slip. Less wiggling from the toddler set? YES PLEASE.
Munchkin Snack Catchers. Try saying THAT product name five times fast. Heh. Anyway, these handy containers each hold 9 oz. of dry snacks, for the child who inevitably refuses every single item on the menu.
The Only Coloring, Puzzle, Dot-to-Dot, Activity Book You’ll Ever Need. Dinner table entertainment out the wazoo: “120 black-and-white pages of pencil-and-paper play, including hidden pictures, unfinished drawings, fold-ups, games, giggles and goofy stuff.”
Do any of you have tips for eating out with kids? Any ideas for making it less stressful/messy?