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When I was a new mom running errands with my baby was fun. I grabbed her infant car seat out of the car and slipped it into the stroller. I happily and peacefully walked the aisle of the grocery while other customer oooed and aaaahed over my sweet chubby cheeked baby. Just when I thought I was the master of running errands with child toddlerhood said, “Let me stop your right there.”
Running errands with a toddler can be super frustrating. I know sometimes we would rather stay home. But, sometimes we have to put on our big girl pants and adult for a short time. Here are some reasons why running errands with toddlers is a challenge and tips for avoiding a complete meltdown.
Reasons Why Running Errands with Toddlers is Challenging
They Get Bored
I mean I get it. If I were strapped into a car seat with limited mobility I would get pretty bored too. While we can empathize with them the errands must get done.
Throws Off Their Routine
Kids thrive on routines. They crave it. Running errands can definitely interfere with their normal day-to-day. If you are running errands at an odd time you can expect a tantrum or two along the way. This is just their way of communicating that they are feeling out of sorts.
It is Hard to Stay Focused
As a mama, you are being pulled into a million different directions. You are also probably hyper-vigilant to your surroundings especially when you have a small child in tow. This can make it difficult to stay focused on the tasks at hand.
It takes longer
Before kids, I knew running errands would take longer but O M G I never realized just how much longer. I pretty much plan for an errand to take twice as long when my kid is with me.
Tips for Making Running Errands With Toddlers Go More Smoothly
Know Their Limits
If you’ve just picked your toddler up from daycare or if they’ve just woken from a nap, they may be too tired or too wired to sit still and behave. If they’re hungry you can bet they’re going to have a meltdown too.
Before you run errands with your toddler, make sure they’re in good shape to do so. If they haven’t eaten in a while, get them a snack before you run errands. If they’re wide awake and fresh from a nap, make a deal with them. Twenty minutes at the park and then you get twenty minutes at the grocery store.
Know Your Limits
Sometimes our rational brain is working and we can manage a toddler like we’re a superhero. Other times, all logic and reason go out the window. Instead of being proactive and anticipating potential trouble, we react. If you’re tired, hungry, stressed or otherwise not 100%, let the errands wait.
When you are at your best the errands go much more smoothly and makes for a more enjoyable time.
Get Them Involved
It may sound strange, but you can actually ask your toddler to help you with the errands. For example, at the grocery store, you can give them choices for the food you buy. If you’re at the dry cleaner, ask them to carry a shirt and hand it to the clerk. If there’s really nothing they can do to help, distract them with conversation. Point out interesting things in your surroundings. Engage your child in the process.
Try to Combine the Must Stuff with the Fun Stuff
Take them to a park or a coffee shop with a play area. Take them to the library to choose books. Grab a cookie at the bakery on your way to the dry cleaner. There are many fun things you can do when you’re out together. No fun stuff to do while you’re out? Then make them a deal and find something fun to do at home when you’re done with your errands.
For example, “After we go grocery shopping we’ll come home and make cookies. You can decorate them. What color do you want the frosting to be?”
Choose the Best Time of Day
Are you a morning person or a night person? What about your child? Find their best time of the day, and wherever possible run your errands when they’re generally happy and well behaved. It’ll make the errand running adventure so much more fun.
Running errands with toddlers is a challenge. However, it’s a challenge that can be managed with a little forethought and planning. Stay sane, plan ahead and you’ll both be a lot happier.
Bring plenty of snacks and water for your trip. You never know when running just one errand will turn into a half a day ordeal. It is best to be prepared in case you make an unexpected stop or a surprise play date pops up.
But, don’t just pack snacks. Be sure to also pack things for your child to do or play with while they are in the car. This will help keep them from being bored.
Plan Ahead and Write a List
Even if you only have a few stops, plan each one out in your head and make a list. Share this with your child. Even if you think they are too young to understand going through their day with them can be helpful. Writing a list helps keep you focused. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten home from running errands only to realize I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning or stop by the store.
You Got This!
Running errands with a toddler is never, ever going to be like running errands alone. Even with the best-behaved toddler, you will still experience some challenges. Knowing what to expect and having a plan in place the best you can do to make running errands with a toddler a breeze.
What are some tips or Mama hacks you have used to help make running errands a little easier?