Mellow Mummy: Eating Out With Babies & Toddlers – Gadgets That Make Life Easier : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Eating Out With Babies & Toddlers – Gadgets That Make Life Easier

As you know, I'm particularly keen on encouraging people to eat out with their babies and toddlers. I strongly believe that the social experience of a special meal away from home shouldn't be reserved for adults only. I know lots of parents are put off the idea of eating at a restaurant with their child for a number of reasons, most commonly the embarrassment of them misbehaving, but also the stress of getting them to sit still and I often hear mums complain about the cleanliness of restaurant high chairs. I thought I'd do a summary of some of the great gadgets that exist to make your life easier when eating out with a baby or child and which address some of the common concerns.

The Fabric Highchair


Regular readers will know that I really, really rate my Totseat (around £22) washable, squashable highchair. It has been with us the world over and has been particularly useful in parts of the world where restaurants don't commonly provide highchairs. We have used the Totseat right through from when Lara was first able to sit unaided, right through to toddlerhood. It is washable and fits on any chair, anywhere so I know that when I go into a restaurant it doesn't matter if they don't have a highchair available, or if they are all really manky – I will always have somewhere for Lara to sit. You can buy the Totseat online from lots of great retailers including My Funny Bunny and Hippychick.

We recently tried out the Koo-di Pack-It seat harness (around £10) which is, if anything, even more compact than the Totseat. It folds into itself so you don't risk the possibility of losing the carry case. It isn't quite as flexible when it comes to the numbers of styles and shapes of chair that you can put it on (our own dining chairs were too tall for it), but most restaurants (such as Cafe Rouge, above) have pretty standard shaped chairs so this would rarely be a problem. It is also washable and it is so tiny when folded that you'd have to have a pretty good excuse not to have one in your changing bag at all times. Koo-di seat harnesses can be found at Amazon John Lewis, Asda, and Mothercare among other retailers, (a complete list can be found at Koo-di's own website. The Koo-di Pack-It is suitable from 6-30 months although our reviewer felt that even at its tightest setting, the Koo-di seat harness was a little baggy for her (larger than average) 7 month old so, as always, you should exercise caution when your child sits in a highchair - particularly a fabric highchair on an adult's seat.

A foldable washable highchair such as the Koo-di Pack-It or Totseat can be life-changing. That might sound over-the-top but really, it opens up all sorts of new avenues for you of days out, or visits to restaurants or cafes you would otherwise consider off-limits. Jojo Maman Bebe sell a number of foldable highchairs – one of great interest to me is their wipe-clean pocket highchair which might save on washing the highchair after pretty much every use!

The Travel Booster
Foldable highchairs are fab but they do suffer from one down-side. Adult chairs are often very low and toddlers who want to eat at the table can struggle to reach their plates. I often get around this by sitting Lara on a cushion and then strapping her in.


Another solution is the travel booster seat such at this one from Polar Gear (around £22) which you can buy from Jojo Maman Bebe or Amazon. Suitable from around 1 year old, we've found the Polar Gear booster to be really well designed and effective. It straps to the seat with clip-on straps, one of which can also be used as a carry-handle (the others do tend to get in the way a bit when not in use). The seat is wipe-clean and is a good size so, unlike many travel highchairs, it will be suitable for toddlers right up until their are old enough to sit in an adult chair. The Polar Gear booster comes with a folding changing mat but we think it works well as a wipe-clean placemat to keep the dining table clean.

Amazon also sell the similar Munchkin Travel Booster (£19.99) which has the added bonus of storage space inside the booster pack to put a drink, or baby wipes.

The Tray Cover
Restaurant highchairs are not always the cleanest of things. Its hard enough keeping your own highchair clean so the last thing you want to do when you get to a restaurant is to start cleaning away other children's muck from the tray. I've seen some fairly disgusting ones in my time and have had to put in a lot of elbow grease to shift the crusty bits of baby-gack before letting Lara take her seat.

Tidy Trays (£15) have a neat solution to the problem. The Tidy Tray is a light fabric washable high chair tray cover that you can take with you anywhere. It simply slips over the tray of the restaurant's highchair meaning you're in control of the hygiene at mealtimes! Jojo Maman Bebe sell the Tidy Tray but for a full list of stockists, check out the Tidy Trays website.

The Hygeine Solution

And, if you are happy to use the restaurant's own highchair but would rather it were a little more sanitary then can I recommend these wipes from Tommee Tippee (£1.99 for 30). I know that they are called teat and teether wipes, but I now keep a pack of these biodegradable wipes in my changing bag and use them on highchairs and changing mats when I'm out and about.
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