This is how I get my 3-year-old to behave—plus a few surprising tricks from other parents who enjoy a meal out once in a while. 

By Anna Davies
June 04, 2018

The first time I took my daughter to a restaurant, she was five weeks old. For the first time since she was born, I felt normal. Here was someone waiting on me! Here was food I didn’t have to make! Ever since then, I’ve made restaurant trips a priority for us. It hasn’t always been easy—around the ages of two to two-and-a-half it was a lot less complicated to do take-out or make quick stops—but now that my daughter is three, I can honestly say I enjoy going to a restaurant with her.

We don’t use a tablet or a phone, and we’ve found different “wins” the more we dine out. A place with a fish tank? Instant win. Having her pack her own purse of toys she can play with, including a lip gloss? Also a genius move. Now that my daughter has some little friends of her own, I’ve found going to dinner with another similarly-aged toddler can keep the peace for everyone—and I’ve learned that there’s no crime in ordering French fries along with a drink order. I’ve also learned that every single time you dine out is different, and going with the flow, not taking anything too seriously, and being able to realize the most epic meltdowns make the best memories can help keep things in perspective.

That's just what works for me. When it comes to parenting, everyone travels a different path. But take an organic-everything mom, a “bring on the preservatives” dad, a free-range parent, and a helicopter parent, and what's the one thing that unites them all? The restaurant horror story. Instead, let's unite around our restaurant strategies—starting with these hacks from parents who can now honestly say they look forward to dining out in public with their kids.


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