Parents have an enormous amount of responsibility on their shoulders in providing for and nurturing their children. Children need to learn how to behave when out in public and this takes practice.
The natural response for a child in a new situation or environment is to want to explore every inch of it. So, when parents buckle them into a shopping cart or restaurant booster chair, things can go downhill very fast.
Here are five tips to help parents keep their children happy in public places and how to utilize a parent's most important accessory: the diaper bag.
1. When in Doubt, Walk it Out
Have a designated walker.
When you sit down at a restaurant, the last thing you should do is buckle your toddler in her seat for the long wait. Have the designated walker take the child and show her around the restaurant. Take her into the bathroom and wash her hands to get ready to eat. Show her some of the décor, the atmosphere, etc.
One of the worst things you can do for a child's sensory system is take her into a new place and strap her down without showing her around first. Imagine how that would feel to a little person: it would drive her curiosity crazy or even scare her.
Most restaurants have a nice restroom and have scenery to look at; show her what this place is all about and use this time to tell her, "In a few minutes, we get to sit down and eat."
2. It's Not a Diaper Bag
If you think that you and your children can get by in a restaurant with only a few diapers and a package of wipes to entertain them, you should be awarded the medal for "Most Optimistic."
Don't rely on the restaurant to take care of business. We all know that the 3 crayons end up on the floor and the cardboard container they came in gets eaten. Don't think of it as a diaper bag, think of it as a Child Survival Kit (CSK).
Start thinking like a travel-by-umbrella nanny; as my sister Tiffany says, "You need a carpet bag full of tricks." Parents need to pack their Child Survival Kits with all the essentials their child may need: a sippy cup, a snack, diapers, wipes, chapstick, tissues, several means of entertainment, and never forget the headache medicine.
3. Be a Live Wire
Never underestimate the power of the new in the curious eyes of a child.
Craft pipe cleaner is quiet and can be molded into anything on the fly for a little distraction while waiting at a restaurant. Wind the pipe cleaner around a butter knife to make it into a spiral. Or take 2-3 different colors of pipe cleaner and twist them to make a bracelet.
Your facial expressions and tone will be the key: convince your toddler that craft pipe cleaner, or whatever you have on hand, is the answer to life's questions and the means of deliverance from boredom while trapped in a restaurant bucket seat.
4. Press On!
Another thing to include in your CSK is stickers – by the hundreds. Also include several plastic spoons in your CSK and put a different animal sticker on the back of the spoon and voila! You have a miniature puppet show at the restaurant table.
Magnet books are also a CSK essential. Many of them have adorable themes including: trains, planes, ballerinas and pirates. These are great toys to have in a restaurant but also at church or on an airplane because they are quiet, and the magnets stick easily and don't fall onto the floor.
5. Don't be a Sucker
If there's one thing being a mother has taught me, it is the gospel truth that a toddler cannot wail and suck on a sucker at the same time. Make sure you have an entire bag of suckers in your CSK. I know for a fact that no child will turn down a sucker ever.
Alicia is a mother to four children, including identical twin boys. She is also a former high school English teacher. She writes about family and home on her blog. She enjoys the funny things her children do and say and is the author of Motherhood or The Widening Gap Between Showers (available on Amazon).