Toddlers at the Restaurant Table

If you happen to be sitting at a table near Nash Patrick, a certain chubby-cheeked, brown-eyed fellow perched in a highchair, prepare to duck. Food can fly while in the bowl. When there’s cutlery within reach, well, you’ve been warned. The young man about town may have a future in shot put or discus.

Nash will be turning two in a couple of months, so in all likelihood he will develop other, non-athletic pastimes in eateries. But as many parents know from experience, venturing into a dining establishment with a tot can amount to restaurantroulette. The cooing cherub who charmed the waiter and slept through the main course on your last outing may now be teething and a lot more active. At the best of times sitting still isn’t high on a toddler’s priority list. When you place him or her at a table in a busy, unfamiliar setting with strange people all about, it’s apt to be even more challenging. Parents can sometimes wind up doing laps around the restaurant perimeter to keep Kiddo amused. Failing that, Kiddo may be inclined to launch missiles towards the perimeter. (Nash quite enjoys the walkabout. While exploring a variety of eating places, he has managed to befriend many pretty young ladies. This child development has not been lost on his single uncle, who has taken to volunteering for the restaurant laps.)

Not all families are up for the challenge. Some parents, especially those with two or three or four little ones, tend to choose spots with kids’ menus and crayons on tables. Others, who’ve experienced the ire of fellow restaurant patrons in the midst of a sub-optimal dining incident, may play it safe with babysitters or take-out meals until the kids are a little older.

Still, many folks do take their little ones to restaurants on a regular basis and enjoy it. Nicki McIlree says she and her husband, Henry, will take their little guy just about anywhere. Liam is three and a seasoned restaurant visitor. Although Nicki says fancy establishments aren’t their style, they do dine out at a variety of places. “Liam’s favorite has always been the Marlborough Pub in North Gower. He was three weeks old the first time we took him. They’ve seen us through all the stages: breast feeding, needing hot water to heat bottles, heating baby food for us, us ordering for Liam [and Liam] ordering for himself.

“We were lucky to have a pretty easy-going kid,” Nicki admits. “As long as we had a diaper bag with some toys, he was pretty good. Now, crayons and paper usually do the trick; if not, we pull out an iPhone game.”

Lara Wellman and her husband, Eric, also take their youngsters out to eat. The Wellman family includes a six-year-old, as well as three-year-old twins. “Pretty much we’ll go anywhere,” Lara says. Her only rule is no pop. “What I generally do now is get them to colour, read a book I brought, or play on a device like the iPhone or iPad.” It makes for a pleasant meal. When the timing is right, parents are prepared and youngsters know the expectations, a restaurant visit can be a family treat.

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