Brunching with a Toddler: Lessons Learned

Brunch is my favorite meal, hands down. My husband and I like to dine out, and going to brunch is a frequent occurrence. After becoming parents, we were happy to have a child that enjoys being on the go with us. Our son loves the hustle and bustle of busy scenes and has never met a stranger.

Pre-COVID, brunch with our son was simple. In his early months, he would usually sleep the entire time, and as he got older he was content at the table with a bottle and toys.

Of course, COVID interrupted our typical dining out plans, and from the time my son was 8.5 months to 11.5 months, we did not venture to any restaurants indoors. Even when restaurants slowly reopened we continued to patronize them for takeout only.

After the city entered phase 2, we decided to celebrate Father’s Day with our first restaurant meal, and of course, we decided on brunch. Per the guidelines at the time, I made reservations in advance, chose a time strategically between our son’s two naps, and eagerly anticipated a meal outside of the home.

As much as I was looking forward to our meal I was nervous about this brunch experience. Why? Well, this baby, two weeks shy of turning 1 was not the same baby we would brunch with in the past. This baby talks and shouts loudly. This baby scoots and wiggles nonstop. This baby eats table food and likes to throw it. This baby dives after every item within reach. This baby… is a toddler now.

Despite my worries, we ventured to brunch with our toddler, and… we survived it! But we did leave with a few lessons learned.

My tips for a successful toddler brunch

Bring your own supplies.

I’m a planner so I don’t leave much to chance. I suggest keeping a high chair cover in your diaper bag or car, as well as disposable or easy to wipe bibs. One of my favorite products is the disposable placemats that adhere to the table. They make clean up a breeze and are great to put food directly on.

A hungry kid is a cranky kid.

At least my son is. He is much more pleasant on a full stomach. I like to feed him as soon as we are seated, whether it’s a snack from home or ordering something for him immediately. That way we aren’t in a rush to order and have a playful child for the rest of the meal.

Have a drink.

Whether it’s a mimosa, your favorite cocktail, or a strong cup of coffee… you deserve it, Mama. Relax and enjoy your meal with your most important people.

Choose your restaurant and reservation wisely.

Brunch works perfectly for us because we can schedule it in between our son’s naps. Make sure to think about your daily schedule when picking a reservation time. Try to pick a restaurant where your kid’s behavior won’t be the most exciting thing happening. I’m a big proponent of exposure, so I absolutely don’t suggest avoiding taking your kids out to eat. But trying to keep a toddler quiet in a “fancy” restaurant sometimes means more stress for Mama. I save those for date nights for now.

Tip well.

Tip well always, but especially when dining with a kiddo. As much as we tried to minimize spills and mess, there is no denying that the table and floor required a little extra attention after we left.

So Worth It

Overall our first brunch experience was louder than normal, certainly messier than we are used to and required an extra dose of patience, but it was rewarding. It meant a lot for us to step back from the chaos of reality and enjoy our favorite meal with our little family. So if you are on the fence about braving your first meal out with a toddler, my advice is to go for it. It’s different for sure but so worth it.

Danielle Blanco
Danielle is a native New Orleanian. She graduated from Ben Franklin and attended the University of New Orleans' undergraduate and graduate schools. She and her husband Abraham married in 2017 and welcomed their son Blaise in June of 2019. She balances motherhood with working full time as the Director of Finance and Operations at a local CMO. As a first time mom she is learning to embrace the chaos. Danielle’s current struggle is getting her little one to nap as well at home as he does at daycare and to utilize his sippy cup. This type-A mama can usually be found on the go with a to-do list and a plan. She enjoys gift giving, thrifting, watching tv and sewing. Additionally, she never turns down a happy hour or beach vacation. She is excited to experience New Orleans as a mom and is truly proud to call it home.

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