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How do I get my 18-month-old to sit still when we are out to eat?

We really want to go out to eat as a family in a restaurant. Any idea on how to get my 18-month-old to sit still?

Jocelyn | Expert


Bring a variety of toys and snacks. Give your child one or two toys to play with, when they start getting restless, take those toys and put them away, exchanging with one or two different toys.

Every time your child begins to lose focus, distract with a new set of toys or a new snack.

Pay attention to your child, playing with them and helping to keep them occupied.

You probably will not be able to go out to eat and have an 18 month old sit still the entire time, but rotating toys and snacks, playing games such a peek a boo or little piggies and giving them time out of a high chair will help keep them from climbing around the entire time.

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Heather | Expert


18 month old toddlers have a hard time sitting still.  We introduced eating out as soon as they were born and past the incubation stage for exposure to germs. 

Some restaurants have something for children to play with - though for this age the options are limited - and you need to be concerned about germs if they are shared. 

We always brought some quiet toys and cheerios or crackers with us. There is no way an 18-month-old can sit still while waiting for food. Sometimes one of us had to get up and stroll with our kids to the lobby of the restaurant until the food came out. 

No matter what, if the child was disturbing to others, then we left and took our food with us. Children learn pretty quickly that if they want a special experience with mommy and daddy, they will have to behave or it's back to home. 

The big thing is to keep the child distracted and entertained. Start with fast food or the quick service places and then work your way up to nicer establishments. 

We've been out so much with our kids that it is now enjoyable and they behave themselves at 7 and 9.

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