Dining out with toddlers is probably not high up on your list of things to do right now. A single toddler would be challenging enough but two or three? Probably a rather scary thought ! But…..I have to admit, it was something that I wanted to make sure I could do as my triplets got older. I didn’t want to have to either restrict where I went or avoid going out with them completely. I waited until they were about 14 months old before taking them to eat in a cafe and chose John Lewis on Oxford Street of all places! My mother thought I was bonkers and that wasn’t because of where we went but simply the effort of getting them ready to go!! I was not going to let that stop me getting out although I must admit that even when we were out, it would take more time to do stuff because random strangers would come up and want to take a look at them or chatter to me about triplets.
The thing was, I was meeting my mother-in-law there and we had decided to take them for an ice-cream. Back then, John Lewis had a big ice-cream counter with lots of seating, space for the huge stroller and toilet facilities close by. The first trip went really well… I have to admit though for this first time and with the age of the triplets, I took my neighbour with me! She often came to help me in the afternoons, she was widowed and her own children lived a way away so we had helping hands for each baby.
There were several things I was conscious of with taking them out. I was nervous about them making too much noise for others in the cafe, of them having a melt down, one of them being sick, but also I realised that if I didn’t take them out and get them used to behaving, then it would never get any easier.
Ive compiled a checklist to make taking out your toddler twins/triplets great fun and most importantly… not stressful !
- Spare clothing – Most toddlers do spill down their clothing and of course wearing a bib protects from most of this, but I took along a couple of spare sets of tops and trousers for my triplets, just in case we had disasters. Taking a child home in wet clothes or no clothes, is a disappointing end to a treat out. They dont take up much space in a bag.
- Toddler beakers – Ideal so they can be independent and you don’t have the struggle of letting 3 toddlers drink from a glass. I got my three onto drinking with straws as soon as I could, because that made going out much easier, especially as one time I forgot the beakers. There were a few damp toddlers to take home… not much fun.
- Avoid places where there are long waits for food – Buffet style cafes/restaurants are the best so there is no waiting around too long for food. At home its ok if there is some noise and shouting whilst they wait for lunch to be ready but not the sort of thing you want when you’re out! So choosing somewhere that there isn’t a wait avoids the embarrassment of shouting toddlers.
- Unexpected waiting for food – Distracting toys/ipad/breadsticks/carrot are excellent backups in case of some unforeseen delay. Getting fractious and hangry spoils any benefit you might gain from going out in the first place, so some finger food that they can chomp on whilst waiting will keep them happy.
- Highchairs – This is a must in any cafe or restaurant. Toddlers running around, whilst eating is not a good move, or trying to sit on regular seats doesn’t work for me, too stressful. I found that if my three didn’t eat well through the day, they would have disturbed sleep that night and that was not something I wanted !
- Enough hands to help – As my triplets got older, I found that I could do more and more with them by myself, but I do feel that this was because when they were younger, I had helping hands to show them how to feed themselves and they learned how to behave and be good when out with me.
- Toilet Trips – Choosing a cafe/restaurant that has suitable baby changing facilities or toilets that are big enough to take in strollers and two or three toddlers is a godsend. Struggling into small compartments of toilets is not fun for anyone but with two or three toddlers to sort out, I would never go to a place again if I couldn’t change them easily.
- Avoiding tantrums – Not so easy because its not always possible to appease the frustration of a 2 year old. I still took my three out when they were going through the terrible twos. I found the best way to deal with it, and this was just me, was to remove the tantrum child from the cafe, leaving the other two with a helper. It was easier for me to cope with the tantrum if I didn’t have the eyes of all the other diners watching me! Frequently the tantrum was hunger/tired, so calming them down, getting some food into them and into the stroller for a snooze was the solution !
There are plenty of places that you can go out to eat without stress – picnics are perfect because it doesn’t matter so much about dropping food and them squiggling about. It doesnt have to be somewhere special, although this was one of our favourite things to do at the zoo. We lived in London when mine were tiny and we frequently went up to Regents Park Zoo or to one of the large parks where we could walk with them in their strollers without the attention.