You’ll have figured out by now that my idea of eating out with your toddler is really about eating away from the usual places. Whether that means eating on the couch, having a picnic in the park or enjoying a meal or hot drink in a cafe or restaurant, it’s all part of my grand vision for eating out.
As the weather turns dull, dreary, freezing and wet, I find myself looking forward to staying at home. But, that doesn’t mean I shy away from “eating out”. In fact, we’ve been doing it quite frequently. To us, “eating out” at home means an indoor picnic.
More than just eating your sandwich on the couch, our indoor picnics are full on. We take out the picnic blanket, move the couch away from the window, grab some cushions, eat our packed lunch and sometimes sip some special drink (chocolate milk).
It’s good fun! Although we’re only at home, indoor picnics give both of us a bit more freedom. There’s no need to sit in chairs, no bibs, and definitely more looking out the window as we chow-down. It’s just a really relaxed time where we chat, sing, talk about our food, and play games.
Okay, so a stay at home picnic isn’t very exotic. It doesn’t have the allure of eating at a restaurant or cafe, and you still have to make the food and clean up from lunch. But, sometimes a change of scene is all you need to take you out of the usual loop of the mundane.
One way to make your indoor picnic even more exciting is to have a special cup, container or food you only use when you’re on a picnic. We have a special picnic doggy container we bought at Ikea. It’s the perfect size for a sandwich, a few crisps, an orange and a fruit pouch (if you squeeze it in). It’s a special treat for the lady since it doesn’t make an appearance outside picnics. And whenever I take it out of the cupboard she gets all squeely and excited. *Score!*
There’s no special secret to a successful indoor picnic but my top tips are:
- Find a spot with lots of light, like near a window and make it your special spot for all picnics
- Put down a picnic blanket for the full effect (or towels if you don’t have a blanket)
- Add a few cushions for comfort (make sure you’re ok if they get dirty – eating can be messy!)
- Make picnic food, not the usual food – sandwiches, cold pasta salad, hard boiled eggs and cheese slices, etc
- Make the food and drink special – remember, special doesn’t have to be unhealthy
- Eat from tupperware or paper plates – the more it feels different than the usual, the more they’ll love it
- Get excited – show your enthusiasm and your little one will feed off it and get excited
- Stay relaxed – it doesn’t mean let them run riot, just be a more open to let them do things they can’t do at the table
Don’t just save indoor picnics for rainy days. They’re great any time of the year. I love doing them on a sunny day since we live on the top floor and get plenty of sunshine.
And you don’t have to just make a lunch. Why not have a special snack and story time on the blanket. It’s a great way to spend some quality time.
Indoor picnics are also a great way to get out of a bad eating cycle. If you’ve been struggling with mealtimes than this is a great way to change the situation and see if they’ll be up for eating. It’s a different atmosphere where the usual rules don’t apply. Stay relaxed and you might find they’re more agreeable to eating or trying new things. What have you got to lose?! A few crumbs on a blanket or towel…!