Toddler sitting in a high chairToddler sitting in a high chair
photo credit: © d13 /Veer

A few weeks ago the Internet exploded over a very public situation in a Maine diner involving a toddler, a pancake and a whole lot of yelling. You know the one. We all know the one. That’s because we’re all afraid of that story being us, right?

We’re all in this together, after all. We’ve all had our children be perfect angels and little devils, sometimes in the span of the same meal. Dining out with a little one can be hard, no matter how prepared you are. Children are their own brand of loveable chaos, but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to just hole up in your home until your child is in elementary school.

So, we asked our friends on Facebook…how do you keep your little one busy and meltdown-free while you’re out to eat as a family? 

your generous (and useful) top tips are here:

ask around

Most chain restaurants are pretty family friendly, but if you’re looking for a new spot to explore with your family, throw a Facebook status out there and ask your friends where they like to take their kids to eat. You’ll avoid ending up at a place with white tablecloths when your children only eat ketchup, and you may end up with a favorite new hot spot for the whole family.


Restaurants understand that a small child + hunger =major meltdown. As long as your little one orders off the kiddie menu, nobody has a problem with them enjoying a little appetizer of dry cereal, banana or whatever their favorite snack may be.


Sandy C. recommended disposable placemats printed with different activities. Whether or not the restaurant has them, you can be prepared (and keep your little one occupied).

tabletop suction toys

Total. Genius. Rebecca S. from New York City vouches for tabletop suction toys like this and this. They keep your little human busy, and they’re firmly attached to the table, which means they won’t end up in your neighbor’s soup.

and your list of dont's...

no sugar packets

For the love of your server, don’t give them sugar packets to play with unless you’re ready to clean up every single one of them.

no noisy toys

You may have learned to tune out “Pop goes the weasel” but your dining companions may be utterly tortured by hearing it on repeat for 35 minutes.

Most of you agreed that dining out with a child comes with its own brand of chaos, no matter how prepared you are, but that bringing your kids out to eat is a helpful way to prepare them for life in the real world. That’s how we all learn not to throw our dinner rolls on the floor or take our nappies off in the dining room: by doing.

So go out to brunch. Go out to lunch! Go out to dinner or breakfast or coffee. And when there’s a little one melting down at the table next to you, offer his parents a smile and a nod and send them a round of drinks.

We’re all in this together, right?