Let baby “finger paint” with baby food in restaurants

Christy's hack may give you a few precious moments of quiet at a restaurant:

When my first child was about 8-10 months old and we wanted to go out to a restaurant for dinner she was always too finicky to sit still and would fuss unless one of us was standing up holding her UNTIL we inadvertently discovered she would sit contently for a whole dinner if we put a drop of sauce or baby food on her tray to play with. This worked consistantly and is working with my second baby, who is now 9 months old. She just sits and puts her finger in the sauce and paints the tray.

Restaurant survival kit
Extra spoons as restaurant entertainment for baby
Keeping restaurant crayons on the table
Tastingmenu.com on combining toddlers and restaurants


  1. Margaret says

    To go along with this, you could use those sticky disposable place mats. We always bring those along so the mess can be cleaned up really easily.

  2. Christy says

    We always clean up and tip well. I make a rule never to leave a restaurant in worse condition than it was when we arrive.

  3. RookieMom Heather says

    Sweet idea. I’ll have to try it.

    What do you do for those awkward months when the baby is too small for the highchair but too big for the bucket seat?

  4. Kate says

    Heather, we have made it through that stage with two huge babies (who outgrew their baby buckets early). Here are a couple of ideas:
    1. stuff jackets around baby in highchair
    2. Bumbo
    3. use the infant carrier for restaurant only (not as safety seat)
    4. stroller (as fire code/restaurant policy permits)
    5. hold baby and order something you can eat with one hand; take turns with partner
    6. take-out (sorry, not what you probably want to hear)

  5. SAHMmy Says says

    Isn’t it funny how even as babies kids know instinctively when they are getting away with Something Not Normally Allowed?

  6. Rachel says

    Put a square of rubber shelf liner under their bum so they don’t slip around in the big chair. I just keep a 10″ by 10″ square of the stuff folded in my diaper bag. Also works in grocery carts.

  7. Chief Family Officer says

    I just wanted to say that this is BRILLIANT! I used it not eating out (ha! what is that?!) but at home, after my baby was done eating. I put a tiny bit of leftover carrots on his tray and while he played with his food, I was able to finish making dinner and clean up the kitchen a little bit.