How to Keep a Toddler Entertained in a Restaurant

Keeping a toddler entertained in a restaurant is challenging. It's a common problem. Keep reading to learn how to handle this issue.
How to Keep a Toddler Entertained in a Restaurant

Last update: 17 January, 2022

I t can be a challenge to keep a toddler entertained in a restaurant. In fact, it is a common problem that almost all parents face, especially when children are used to having an independent meal routine, for example, if they normally eat in kindergarten or school or if they don’t eat with their parents. Even when they eat at home, during the first years of life, little ones have different routines.

One of the main problems that parents who eat in a restaurant with children face is getting them to be calm and seated for a long period of time, much longer than they usually sit during meals. Keeping young children busy and entertained in a restaurant without disturbing other diners is a challenge.

The fact that a child is small doesn’t justify screaming, behaving in an inappropriate way, throwing things, much less running between tables. Parents are responsible for the good behavior of their children and should take this situation very seriously.

A toddler sitting at a restaurant table.

Strategies for keeping your toddler entertained in a restaurant

The following strategies are very helpful in getting children entertained in a restaurant. To be effective, it’ll help a lot to explain to children what’s going to happen and the rules of behavior you expect them to follow.

1 – Choose a family restaurant

Not all restaurants are prepared to cater to children. That’s why it’s important to choose those that take little ones into account, which is much more than just having a high chair for babies. The type of menu or the availability of spaces for children to play after they’re done eating are some issues that must be taken into account.

It’s also important to choose a restaurant where people usually go with children because they tend to have fewer dangers for them and solutions for their entertainment.

2 – Choose a restaurant where they serve food that your children like

The best way to keep a child entertained in a restaurant is to keep them busy with what they eat. But if what the restaurant serves are dishes that are too sophisticated for kids, they take a long time to serve the food between courses, or what they put on the table is too strange, you’re going to run into problems.

That’s why it’s important to go to eat with children at restaurants that include children’s menus or where you know that your child will eat what they serve. A restaurant isn’t the best place to have an argument about food or to conduct experiments unless your child is very curious about it.

A little girl feeding herself spaghetti at a restaurant.

3 – Play in order to discover the place

While the food arrives, you can play with your child in order to discover the restaurant. An adult should accompany the child to investigate what’s there. Identifying the services, looking for possible playgrounds, and seeing what nice things are there are quiet and entertaining activities that can help keep your child entertained in a restaurant.

Anxiety about going to a new place and being in a different situation can trigger different emotions in a child. This way, they’ll feel calmer and they won’t accumulate anxiety sitting in a chair waiting for food.

4 – Take a walk around

Children are a ball of energy that can’t be idle for long. If the restaurant doesn’t have a children’s play area, then they’ll need to release their energy in some way. So, before the child begins to fidget in their chair, an adult should go out with the child during the waiting periods.

Letting your child wander between tables is never a good idea. It can annoy other diners and cause unpleasant incidents with the waiters.

5 – Bring games and toys to entertain the child

Always carry toys that can entertain the child at the table–toys that you know they like. Of course, they must be small, not make noise, and won’t cause issues or break if they fall or roll off the table.

The most suitable toys will depend on the age of the children. Keep in mind that leaving your mobile phone with them can be a useful solution at first, but it’s not the best idea. In addition to exposing yourself to the chance that your child could break it or do something inappropriate with it, the noise can be very annoying.

6 – Take the opportunity to teach them

Children are naturally curious. In a restaurant, there are many things they can learn. Paying attention to your child and taking the opportunity to teach them new things is a very useful and practical way to entertain them.

Playing I spy, discovering colors and shapes, or making up a story as you go, are some effective ways to entertain children in a restaurant.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.