Taking kids to a cafe can seem like a daunting task and when there are one or more toddlers involved? It’s often avoided at all costs.
Not only can this be a logistical nightmare (small spaces vs bulky prams!) but getting your little one to sit still and cooperate can feel like a losing battle. Before you know it, there can be tears – quite literally over spilt milk.
As I am writing this, I have flashbacks from a recent visit to the cafe. We had our three children in tow, one child wanted something the other had and before we knew it? All hell had broken loose. My husband didn’t quite know what to do and and took off with one child to pacify her. I am convinced it was also due to embarrassment but it was me who was then left with two screaming children (and a look of defeat on my face). In hindsight it could have all been avoided.
Let me set the scene. My husband put a plate of something that was to share on the toddler’s tray. So toddler assumed it was for him and couldn’t understand why someone would then take away half of his food. You see, you just can’t leave anything to chance when it comes to toddlers. If that little picture in their mind gets thrown off course – it’s almost always a guaranteed meltdown.
This is why it’s more important than ever, to ‘prepare’ for an outing. Whilst how you do this will be completely dependant on age (and needs) there are a few key things to consider.
These little ones are pretty easy, they don’t throw tantrums or talk back! They will generally sleep anywhere and very well, so you can often take advantage of this. Getting out and about for a gentle walk, fresh air and much needed coffee can become a regular daily exercise for some.
If you find it easier to be at home for breastfeeds, timing your outings between feeds is always a good idea but be sure to have everything set up and ready to go.
As your baby gets older and more aware, they won’t necessarily stay asleep for long. Timing the video around sleep times can work and you will soon learn which time of the day is best to do this. A morning outing is generally easier than in the afternoon where they might have a big sleep in their bed or be overtired.
Once your baby is able to sit up in a highchair (typically anywhere from 5-6months and upwards), cafe visits can become even more fun. It’s quite the novelty seeing your little one propped up in a highchair and munching away on food. Finger food is generally introduced around 7 months, and by 14 months they will have no doubt discover the babyccino. If the cafe is limited for highchairs, you can always prop your child up in their pram. A good pram will allow your little one to sit upright and at an angle where they can still enjoy their food.
Toddlers and cafes can be a whole other story. They are likely reaching the walking stage, chattering a lot more and for the older toddler? They would have learnt the fine art of negotiation. Child Behaviour Expert, Stephanie Wicker says there are a few ways you can prepare your toddler’s brain before venturing out:
Limit screen time before outings
Once your child is a bit older, they may like to indulge in a little screen time. Doing so before a social outing can put their little brain in a disengaged state. A disengaged brain will struggle to listen and cooperate which sets your outings up for failure. Try to ensure there is no screen time at least 30 minutes before you plan to leave.
Jumping in and placing demands on your little one before connecting, can put a stressor on their brain. Demands can be a simple as ‘go and put on your shoes or hurry up, go to the front door we need to leave’. Take a few minutes to first get cooperation from your child. This can be as simple as getting on the floor and playing with them. Once you build up that connection, check in by placing a small demand – touch your nose! This will help you to gauge where they are at.
Paint the picture
Remember how we said that changing a picture in their mind can throw them off course? Well priming their brain by setting their expectations can help with this. Talk to your little one about where you are going and what you are going to be doing. This way the expectation is set which can help with cooperation once you get there.
Finally, the type of cafes you have access to can often be dependent on where you live. Some will be more child-friendly than others, but you would have no doubt sussed that out already. If you are in a situation where you cannot take your pram into or close to the cafe, an easily foldable pram can be a lifesaver.
By preparing your child for outings you will have more of a chance to make it a success. Don’t be put off by my recent experience… there have been plenty of successful outings too. Having these moments out and about with your little one creates many fun memories and makes for some pretty cute pictures to look back on too!