The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. 

Woman claims restaurant ‘hack’ for toddlers solves family dinners out

‘This is so wrong,’ a critic remarked

Kaleigh Werner
New York
Tuesday 25 July 2023 07:15 BST
Related: Parent has ‘genius’ hack for tiring her children out using just a YouTube video

One mother’s restaurant hack for toddlers has the internet divided over whether it’s ever appropriate to bring a meal from home.

On 19 May, Karlie Smith (@unbreakablemomma) shared her tip for other moms who face the same difficulties with bringing their children to restaurants. For the single mom, she’s found it’s easier to pack her two-year-old food from home, so she doesn’t get stuck paying for a menu item that he’ll toss on the floor.

“Call me cheap, call me whatever, but if we’re going out to a restaurant, I’m packing my kid a meal,” she proclaimed. “I do this for many reasons. For one, you want me to pay $6.99 for chicken tenders and fries that my son is going to throw half of it on the floor? You’re crazy.”

Smith went on to explain that she and her family usually get together for dinner on Friday nights, and this night, they were meeting at a restaurant. Rather than ordering the children’s option she knew would go to waste, the 21-year-old mom opted for a homemade alternative: one peanut butter and jelly sandwich with sliced bananas, a chocolate Lara bar, and cheddar cheese cubes.

Not only would the prepped meal save Smith money, but it would also save her a tantrum, she explained. “Also, when we get to a restaurant, my child is not waiting for anyone to take his order - he wants to eat now,” the TikTok mom said. “I can just hand him this and let him go to town. Also, my child is not opinionated. He does not care what he eats; he just wants to eat.”

Although Smith likes to come prepared, she’s not opposed to ordering her son something from the menu that he likes. In fact, she said that if he does want something from the restaurant, she will order it for him. Oftentimes, he will finish his packed meal and start on pieces from her plate. “Also, I usually get him chocolate milk because that’s his little takeout treat,” she added.

Her candid video admission resulted in a viral debate, with fellow parents weighing in on the “hack”.

“Seems like you are teaching him that he will always be catered to immediately. No patience. Maybe teach him table manners and he has to wait,” one viewer wrote, while another noted: “No ma’am we don’t do this. I work ... to give my kids whatever they want especially when it comes to going out to eat.”

“This is so wrong,” another follower commented.

One TikTok user thought Smith shouldn’t bring her son to a restaurant if she felt like she needed to bring his own food. Restaurant servers jumped in the conversation to point out that carrying in food from the outside may violate the establishment’s allergy policy too.

However, a few viewers noticed the benefit in Smith’s restaurant hack. “We go out to dinner once a month as a treat and I let my three year old get something from the restaurant. I also bring puffs for her to snack on,” one viewer said, while another remarked: “Listen, my child would much rather have Lunchables than anything on that menu.”

“As a mother to an autistic toddler who only eats select foods, I love this,” someone else noted.

Speaking with Today, Smith expressed shock over the number of viewers who didn’t agree with her tactic, and said she couldn’t believe people were accusing her of being “abusive” to her child over the concept.

“Some people said I was ‘abusive’ to my child. I would understand this better if he were 10,” the mother of two admitted. “I have always dealt with online mom-shaming and unsolicited advice for the most outrageous reasons. It’s like dealing with a bunch of grandmas who say: ‘Why isn’t your baby wearing socks?’”

“For some reason, parenting can be a big competition, as if people have something to prove in the comments section,” she continued. “All the hate, disrespect and anger is unacceptable. You can agree to disagree.”

Because Smith noticed her son would toss restaurant food on the floor, she said she thought it was a smart idea to bring options she knew he liked from home. In sharing her hack, she hoped it would help other parents with children who display aversions to certain meals. Additionally, as a mother to both her two-year-old and a newborn, Smith is cognisant of children’s needs to eat at certain times, and her son happens to be hungry as soon as they sit down to eat when they are out.

“I can feed my child from the moment we sit down at a table - which is when he wants to eat - instead of waiting for drink and entrée orders,” Smith explained.

The TikToker, who revealed she also worked in the service industry, said she never leaves a mess behind her. Smith said she will also make sure to tip the server well, clean up the table before they leave, and will never argue with anyone if they don’t allow anyone to bring food in from home.

The Independent has contacted Smith for comment.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in