A How-To Guide to Outdoor Dining With Toddlers

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Now that we can safely enjoy outdoor, socially distanced dining within our city {and all of NJ!} many of us are flocking to our favorite restaurants, rejoicing in the sights, sounds and tastes that make Hudson County so special. Plus, it helps us all feel just a tiny bit more “normal” than when we were stuck inside sterilizing our takeout containers just a few months ago.

But for those of us with toddlers in tow, al-fresco dining is quite a different experience than a girls night out or date night. From wanting to chase after the birds to having boredom-infused meltdowns, it’s important to be prepared for all the dining out challenges you can face as a parent of tiny tyrants. That’s why we’re here to help. Here are some helpful tips and tricks so the whole family can enjoy outdoor dining at your favorite Hoboken and Jersey City restaurants.

Call Ahead

Calling ahead can save time, energy, and stress. First, ask if they have a children’s menu —as some restaurants are operated with limited offerings. Then, ask if there is space to store  your stroller, and if they have high chairs. If it’s a go — make a reservation, and enjoy!

Read more: Your NEW Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Dining in Hoboken + Jersey City

Be Prepared

No toddler parent travels light, so just make sure your bag is strategically packed.Some things we’ve found to be most helpful for outdoor dining include disposable placemats — like these with our favorite Sesame Street characters, portable high chairs, non-toxic bug spray for night time dining, and some pre-meal snacks since service may be a bit slower given the circumstances. 

Oh, and if all else fails and the only thing standing between your toddler and an enjoyable meal is a little screen time — there ain’t no shame in the tablet game. It’s still a pandemic, which means no rules or judgment. 

Location, Location, Location

Try to stake out some kid-friendly outdoor seating options ahead of time and request a table in the shade wherever possible. You might also want to save the restaurants that face surrounding parks or playgrounds for when you’re kid-free. Strapping a toddler in a high chair while they watch their peers play, swing, and slide within their line of vision is probably not going to work out too well. {Unless there’s a promise of ice cream involved. Then, you might have a chance.}

Serve the Kids First

Things may be moving a bit slower with reduced staff and seating. Because of this, everyone should be practicing a bit more patience and grace. But, tell that to a toddler! It’s a good idea to place the order for your toddlers right away, so the food can come out more quickly and keep them busy while you enjoy your cocktails or apps.

See more: The Coolest Outdoor Dining Setups in Hoboken + Jersey City Right Now

Timing is Everything

The middle of the day when the temps are at their highest and shade is hard to come by is probably not the best time to head out for a family-friendly meal. Neither is too close to nap time or bedtime. So, try to plan ahead instead to have the best, meltdown-free outdoor meal!


 


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Erin is a freelance writer and lives in Hoboken with her husband and daughter. A proud Jersey Girl, she grew up in Central New Jersey but always had a love for Hudson County, with her father having grown up in Jersey City, and her grandfather proudly worked at Maxwell House for decades. Her words have been featured across many outlets including BRIDES, Allure, TeenVogue, The Today Show, Byrdie, and more. Erin also owns local Etsy shop GrandeGifts, and in her spare time can be found binging on all things Bravo.