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A Guide to Eating Out With Toddlers and Babies

19/08/2014 12:18 BST | Updated 18/10/2014 10:59 BST

1. Choose a restaurant or cafe based on the food preferences of little people. For the child that only eats rice: Japanese is good. For the child that only eats bread on Tuesdays: Italian may work. If you have one of each of these children, take a packed lunch for the other.

2. Arrive well before anyone without children is likely to want their lunch. 11.30am is perfect, as you shouldn't, at that time, need to navigate a maze of chairs and diners to get your buggy and scooter-riding toddler to a table. Expect to be hidden in a corner. This is a good thing.

3. Order quickly and don't be too adventurous. For the child that only eats rice, don't get sushi. A bowl of steamed rice, on it's own, will be just fine. For the child that eats only bread before noon, beware of dough balls. They aren't toast and they're the wrong shape. Don't think your small person won't notice.

4. Hope for a short wait for the children's food. If your baby gets hungry, she'll rip up and then eat the paper napkins. Your toddler is smarter than that though, he'll go straight for the sachets of sugar. When the food arrives, expect your young to protest loudly that they don't want to eat it. They might not. Don't worry, they'll eat yours.

5. In the spirit of trying something new, give in to your toddler's demands to eat with chopsticks. Don't be surprised when he sticks them up his nose.

6. If your baby is still in her high chair, well done. She will need to get out of it and sit on your lap as soon as your food arrives. She will then need to stick her hands in your meal, knock over any glasses on the table, and try to eat the colouring pencils put on your table by friendly teenage staff who have no idea that babies don't do colouring and don't differentiate between breadsticks and crayons.

7. By now, it's about time your toddler stretched his legs. It is likely he will run into the knees of staff carrying plates of food. Expect a dry cleaning sum to be added to your bill.

8. Order yourself a large glass of wine and bribe your children to sit down while you drink it. This may involve feeding them cake. Forget your usual ban on icing sugar and anything involving food colouring. If you want to drink your wine, you're going to have to deal with the consequences of a sugar rush later.

9. "Mummy I need to do a poo NOW. NOW MUMMY NOW."

10. Put down your wine. Survey the mess you have created - the food on the floor, the spilled drinks, the torn up fancy menus, the crayon on the chairs. Hope you make it to the toilet on time. Pray no-one is using the hand-dryer because your toddler is terrified of the noise.

11. Tip generously, negotiate with your baby until she is strapped into her buggy, hold your toddler's hand while answering questions about the toilets, swig unceremoniously from your wine glass because you deserve it, and walk away like you do this every day.

12. Wait a couple of months, recover, and (having forgotten what happened in points 2-11 above), repeat.

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