Eating Out with Toddlers: Keeping Everyone Busy

Confession time: we eat out a few times a week. With the kids.

We make an effort to avoid a situation where they’re causing excessive disturbance to other diners or restaurant staff. For a variety of reasons, our family also has a no-screens-at-meals rule: so movies or games. Some exceptions are allowed from time-to-time.

Here’s some things that work for us:

  • Start young:  Every family will have their own guidelines, but we believe it really helps to start on a lot of these as early as possible so it’s ingrained what the expectations are in dining situation, at home or out and about. Basically, the same rules we expect adults to honor:
    • Remain seated while everyone’s eating: no running, walking or standing,
    • Related to previous, no standing in chairs, high chairs, boosters or booths,
    • Playing with food or drinks, or throwing anything is not OK,
    • No screaming, crying or loud behavior,
    • No screens (that’s just our thing…no judgement if that’s what works for your family),
    • Once food is on the table, everything else gets put away (crayons, etc.),
    • Talking with everyone is encouraged, but don’t talk over people and wait your turn,
    • If you don’t want to eat, that’s OK.
      Child at restaurantDrawing at a restaurant in Venice, Italy
  • Activity bag: The oldest child brings an activity bag/backpack to share. Any small backpack will do. We keep our bags in the car at all times. What’s in them? Creative activities that aren’t noisy, aren’t too messy and don’t have lots of small pieces.
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    Activity backpack

    Around the age of one, our youngest really enjoyed the buckles on her Buckle Toy Butterfly Backpack:Image of product
    Butterfly Backpack
  • Activities: In our bag:
  • Activities to think twice about: It’s useful to think about whether an activity will leave a big mess. For example, our kids actually love the Scratch and Sketch books, but they’re best for outdoors dining with no tablecloths. When the wooden stylus scratches off the black coating, the coating ends up all over the place and leaves dark soot-like smudges. These books are delightful, but it’s just a drawback to keep in mind.
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    Beware of black smudges

Happy travels!



Potty Training Around the World

Our youngest is potty training. That means, as with our first, we want to make sure she can go when she needs to. So little plastic toilets and seats are now everywhere in our lives:

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Some of the great things about this seat for travel:

  • Compact (somewhat) and lightweight: This is a big deal. This easily fits in a backpack.
  • Sturdy: Although with effort it’s possible to remove the foldable stands, once secured, they don’t fall off. The bottom of the stands/legs are non-slip rubbery so that’s a nice touch.
  • Hygienic: The whole thing is easy to wash and clean. The best thing is that when the stands are flipped outwards, you can put this on top of a toilet seat. Very little of the potty seat actually contacts the toilet seat.
  • Reasonably priced: Under $20.

It’s not perfect: flipping the stands is a little tricky and takes some practice, and the seat is still a little bulky. But it’s great as a toilet seat and a standalone seat as well.

We evaluated and tried some of the other lightweight travel potty seats, hoping for something even more compact. For example, there are folding seats. But these seats usually have quite a bit of surface contact with the toilet seat, which means you’ll be taking that with you when you fold it up. That notion made these folding seats much less appealing to us, despite being more lightweight and compact.

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Happy travels!

Bath Tubs for Babies on the Go

We loved the Snug-Tub duck inflatable tub we got for our first daughter back in 2014. That thing went with us across four continents to safely bathe her on tight cruise ship showers, hotel shower floors and AirBnB's.

Since we’re a bit germaphobic, having our own tub for the kids was a travel must-have. This is particularly true aboard cruise ships and in homes and hotels that only have showers.

The tub was:

  • Compact and portable: Deflated and rolled down to the size of a short wiffle ball bat, and fit in our luggage easily,
  • Lightweight: About 1.5 pounds,
  • Easy-to-clean: Usually just needed a quick wipe down and hang on the shower wall by the suction cup to drip dry,
  • Reasonably priced: $17.30 USD at the time.

The chief downsides were:

  • Set up: Gotta unroll it, and blow it up, then deflate and roll it up,
  • Leaks: Eventually we used it so much that it sprung a leak at a seam. We followed the bubbles and sealed it with stinky vinyl repair adhesive. But then another area popped a leak.

inflatable bathtub

We have just replaced it with a Disney Princess inflatable tub. We’ll see how that works out and keep you posted.

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Happy travels!


Traveling With Booster Seats

When we traveled with our young kids to Paris and New York City, we often used ride-share services like Uber and Lyft. We worried: what about car seats and boosters?

We did a bunch of research and decided our key criteria were:

  • Lightweight: We’ll be lugging this on our outings,
  • Compact: Bulky and thick options would not be ideal,
  • Low-fuss: Hopping in and out of cars means we can’t be spending too much time fussing with the contraption,
  • Durable: It has to tolerate unexpected drops and scuffs, and
  • Safe: Last but not least!

The first thing we seriously considered was an inflatable, like the BubbleBum. Less than 1 pound, folds up compactly and consistently rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

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But we became skeptical about the durability: some reviewers have reported air leaks. Having owned a few inflatable bathtubs, we were pretty familiar with this problem. Moreover, in practice we’d have to keep it inflated during outings to avoid having to inflate and deflate all the time. So there goes the compactness benefit.

We ended up with the mifold Grab-and-Go, a brilliantly designed folding booster seat. At first glance, it doesn’t look like it actually “boosts” your child. But a booster seat’s main function is to actually bring the seatbelt safely across your child’s lap and shoulder: that’s what the mifold Grab-and-Go does.

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This has been fantastic for walking around the city and hopping in the back of a car. They come in a variety of colors, and when we’re not traveling, they fit in the car door pockets / compartments. It’s a perfect way to have an extra booster seat  when we give a ride to a friend’s kid!

Happy travels!