We’ve come to the end of the Meal Time activity plan from the Reaching Roses curriculum and our culminating activity is going out to eat! When it comes to taking toddlers to restaurants it can sometimes seem like it’s more effort than it’s worth. As a friend of mine put it, “Why would I pay to put myself through torture?”…..here are some tips on how to make eating out with your toddler a more enjoyable experience (and of course a learning experience ;0).
On alternating Fridays I blog about our final activity (starring my twin babies)
This week’s Theme: Meal time
Activity Description: Go out to a restaurant for a meal and involve your baby in the experience as much as possible
This Activity’s Main Area of Development: Language, cognitive, gross motor, fine motor, social, emotional
O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 19 months
1. As a precursor to our outing, we read two stories “Going Out”, (Oxenbury) and “Froggy Eats Out” (London). We talked about appropriate behaviours, manners and social interaction (like being seated, choosing food from a menu, etc). I explained to them that we were going to go to a restaurant to eat dinner too. They were wiggling with excitement.
2. I checked the menu a head of time and printed out a couple of food options for the girls so that when it was time to order, they would have a picture to look at in order to make a choice (in case the menu didn’t have many pictures).
3. We had a very enjoyable meal (the best dining-out-as-a-family outing so far)…because we changed our strategy to involve them in the experience. Here are some things we did:
- We allowed them to choose their own food (Cognitive learning: decision making)
What a concept! I don’t know why we never did this before. Luckily the menu had lots of pictures so I didn’t need to use the ones I printed. We explained again that this is a “book” where you can pick what you want to eat. They both chose the same thing.
Looking at the food options
M knows straight away what she wants
- We encouraged interaction with the server (Social Learning: common social settings, Language: using language in context)
We encouraged them to say hello, order their own food, say thank you to the server when things were brought to the table – you could even let your toddler pay. (When our server came, I just let her know that the girls would try to order themselves. She was very obliging.)
Ordering their own food!
- We encouraged them to self-feed (Emotional learning: self-confidence, Fine motor skills: eating)
Actually this was easy for us because they ordered mostly finger foods BUT…. I brought along our own plastic utensils (that they are used to feeding themselves with and even a couple of plastic bowls). Don’t be embarrassed to do this, it can really make your toddler more comfortable and therefore, your life a lot easier. Often at restaurants the dishes are very heavy, breakable and too big for a toddler to easily manage them.
M drinks using a straw
Yummy finger foods!
Time for dessert
Well done O!
M likes ice cream
Good job M!
- We practiced table manners (Social Learning : social norms)
If they started to be loud, I reminded them of the books we read before. (I used the same phrasing as I did in the book). I told them to look around the restaurant and see that there were other people who don’t want to hear yelling and that nobody else is sitting at their table yelling. This seemed to work. Although there was a baby somewhere that was crying and they kept saying “baby, cry, cry”..(I’m not sure if they were just expressing their understanding of a sound or weather they were trying to argue by saying that somebody else was being loud)…LOL!
We all really enjoyed ourselves!
As I said before, this was the best restaurant experience we have had so far (with the babies in tow). We didn’t have to get out a single toy, we didn’t have to offer them appeasement to keep them quiet, we weren’t apologizing to people, we weren’t fussing about them the whole time. As a matter of fact, Mr. Y and I actually had a couple of interesting adult conversations!
Try this out with your toddler and leave us a comment to let us know how it went!
P.S. Want to see a few of the activities from the Meal Time! activity plan? Click here.