Eating out on date nights? If you have date nights, consider yourself lucky. When you’re the mom of a 3-year-old and 1-year-old, it’s cheaper to either: A) Not go anywhere. B) Take the kids with you so you don’t have to pay for dinner and a sitter. Very rarely do my family and I eat out, but when we do I am absolutely prepared. We always pick a family friendly restaurant and I prefer to eat during off hours, either really early or really late. I stick to places whose menu I am familiar with. This way I don’t need to use my magnifier to read it when I should be keeping my daughters away from the condiments. If, on the off chance, we do choose someplace different, I will search menu options online so I can utilize my accessibility technology in the comfort of my own home.
My husband says my pocket book is like Mary Poppins carpet bag because you never know what this blind momma is going to pull out! The following is a list of some of my favorite items that have kept my kids clean, safe and occupied during an eating out experience.
Eating Out Like a Pro: 6 Items to Bring
1.) Neat Seats Activity Table Topper with Stickers, Disney Cars (14 count – $8.99 Amazon.com) : These 18×12 placemats are made of thin plastic and stick to any table using 4 adhesive strips attached to the back. Each placemat also comes with a sheet of stickers that brilliantly occupy any busy toddler while eating out. The mats allow liquids to pool on them if they should get wet and they can easily be ripped off any table, no glue residue is ever left behind. I have these in several of my daughters favorite Disney characters. They are an absolute hit with my kids.
2.) Crayola Triangular Crayons (8 count – $4.48 Amazon.com) : Restaurant crayons totally gross me out. YUCK! Think about it, most places just hand kids some loose crayons that have mostly likely landed on their floor or been in another child’s mouth. No, thank you! I supply my own crayons when we are eating out and the triangular kind work best. Why? Because these bad boys don’t roll! As a blind mom, I don’t have to worry about chasing a crayon across the table and then search for it when it hits the floor. They are also made bigger and thicker than normal crayons, perfect for tiny toddler hands.
3.) Dover Little Activity Books – Little Coloring Books ($1.50 Amazon.com) : Let’s face it, coloring a restaurant placemat only goes so far. There is not a lot of space and kids get bored quickly. Dover Little Activity Books are about the size of a 4×6 picture frame. They fit snuggly in a small Ziploc bag and my daughters love them. I usually keep about 4 on hand so there is no fighting amongst my kiddos and they have a variety of pictures to choose from to color.
4.) Pizza Cutter ($8.07 Amazon.com) : Yup, I said a pizza cutter. I always carry one in my purse. In fact, I don’t leave home without it. I wrap the blade of the cutter with thick tin foil so I don’t cut myself. As a blind mom, using a knife to cut cheesy items like mozzarella sticks or pizza is too much of a hassle while eating out. I just whip out my pizza cutter and I can roll over my kid’s meals, cutting it into safe, bite size pieces while keeping my fingers in tact. Do people think I am crazy for using it? Here’s my advice to any shy mommies reading this – “STOP CARING ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK.” Is the person sitting next to you going to cut your kid’s chicken tenders? I don’t think so. Be the kind of mom that is going to do what you have to do to get your child fed and keep them safe. If that means carrying a pizza cutter in your purse, have at it! And in case your wondering, this gadget works great for sighted mommies too!
5.) First years take and toss – Spill proof Straw- Cups (10 oz., 4 pack – $4.94, Amazon.com):How many times have you gotten a drink for your kids at a restaurant and the cup leaks or spills all over you? My solution is these toddler friendly cups. They are leak resistant and have a snap on lid, complete with straw. You can absolutely wash them out to re-use, but I typically only utilize these for eating out and I throw them away when I am done.
6.) Purell Hand Sanitizing Wipes (Pack of 6 – $11.85, Amazon.com): I don’t care if you’re in the food court of a mall or at a sit down restaurant. Trust me when I tell you, wipe everything down! When you have a weakened immune system like I do, going out can lead to catching something. I carry these flat packs of Purell wipes in my purse and wipe down the table and any high-chair/booster seat before my kids get too comfortable. I have had people make comments when they see me doing this and my response has always been, “You’re not going to be the one taking care of them if they get sick right?” (See Also Tip #4 About NOT CARING) The conversation usually stops dead in it’s tracks.
If you have the chance to go out with your family, go for it. Enjoy it. Yes, it can be stressful to wrangle children in a public place, but being prepared will really cut down on your stress. And when you get home after that nice, relaxing meal that you didn’t have to cook, take 10 minutes and re-pack your supplies so you can just grab your bag and go the next time you choose to dine out!