Avoid the madness with these practical tips on how to run errands with kids. Get things done and even enjoy your time together!
Errands and kids. Somehow, they don’t mix as well as I wish they would.
Sometimes I’m alone with them and need to run an errand, like picking up a forgotten item at the grocery. Other times, I’d rather not wait until they’re asleep or at school to save more time for myself.
But of course, getting settled into the car takes at least 10 minutes. I come home with bags galore. When my twins were babies, I couldn’t push the double stroller and the shopping cart at the same time. And no outing is safe from a public meltdown.
How to run errands with kids and not go crazy
Perhaps you can relate.
You know you need to take them to get their hair cut but have no energy to pack or deal with potential whining and complaining. Comparing prices at the grocery feels impossible with your attention divided. And waiting in line at the post office, much less the DMV, can be too much to ask of your kids.
I know how hard it can be to get out of the house.
Still, sometimes we need to get that forgotten ingredient or mail that package. And you don’t want to always have to run errands on your own because your kids aren’t used to being out and about. What are a few things you can to do run errands with them in tow?
1. Go when your kids are well-rested, fed, and clean
The first rule with running an errand with kids is to make sure they’re well-rested, fed, and clean.
Go after they’ve napped (or woken up from the morning) so they feel refreshed, not cranky. An errand after a snack or meal avoids hungry tummies. And do a quick diaper change or potty break before you go—you’ll have one less task to do while you’re out and about.
One alternative for sleep, especially for babies, is to go when they’re about to nap so they can sleep while you’re out on a stroll or drive. (I don’t recommend doing this often though since they may not sleep as long as when they’re at home.)
And bring snacks to get them through the errand in case they’re still hungry or your outing runs a little long.
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2. Do one errand at a time
Once your kids are well-rested, fed and clean, your next go-to move is to pick only one errand to run. Don’t do too much or this will exhaust both you and your kids. It’s even better to go to one place and spend a long time there than to go to too many in the same amount of time.
And keep your errand short, especially if you still feel overwhelmed. Break up your grocery list in half, or stick to returning an item to a store (instead of shopping around for a new one). Small habits and actions will build your confidence with each errand you run.
3. Make a list
I’m a huge fan of making lists, and even more so when kids are along on an errand. Any time you’re buying several items, make a list so you don’t forget anything or feel flustered. Write them down to stay organized.
A grocery list is the most common one to have handy, but you can even write the tasks you need to do on a given outing. Let’s say you need to go to the garden store. Write down that you need to buy one new houseplant, a bag of compost, and a packet of vegetable seeds.
4. Run your errand in the morning
One of the benefits of kids waking up early is that you can run errands first thing in the morning. You’re already up at who knows what hour of the day—might as well start it off as soon as you can.
For one thing, you’ll have the whole place to yourself if you run the errand first thing in the morning. You’ll have less of a chance waiting in long lines or bustling your kids through a crowded store.
Mornings are also the time when kids are in their best behavior. Their “buckets” are still full and haven’t been depleted from a long, tiring day. As the day progresses, they’ll have less willpower and energy to brush aside the hassles of an errand.
5. Give your kids items to hold
Kids observe and delight in new environments, but sometimes, they need something familiar to hold or comfort them.
Toys, books, and other comfort items can be all they need to keep them occupied and prevent an outburst. Pacifiers work wonders for babies who crave a soothing activity.
You can also give them an item from a store, but only do this if you actually plan to buy it. Otherwise, they’ll get attached and won’t want to give it up when it’s time to leave.
I learned this all too well when I handed my then-toddler a book from the museum gift shop. He wailed so much all the way to the car that I was tempted to go back and get the darn book.
6. Talk to your kids
Sometimes it’s easy to feel silly holding what seems like a one-sided conversation, especially with babies and toddlers. But talking to kids lets them know they’re included in this errand. They’re not something we tote along like an afterthought, but a genuine companion keeping us company.
Describe your errands and why you’re there. Delight in simple things, like the music playing at the bank or the beautiful weather outside. Your baby or toddler is talking to you, just not in the words you’re used to. You’ll see a difference in his behavior—as well as your own.
The best way to run errands with kids? Keep doing it.
We’re daunted by the things we have no idea how to manage. If you ever told me I’d be out and about with three kids, including twins, I wouldn’t have believed you. And yes, I had moments where they threw a tantrum on a busy street corner. But the only way to feel comfortable and confident is to go out and do it.
Start small: Pick that one simple errand you’ve done a million times. Go at a good time when your kids are fed and rested. And keep it short and manageable.
Keep doing this and you’ll notice you begin doing things you never thought you could. You never thought you could take them to the local store, but you’re now bringing them to the zoo, all by yourself. You come home feeling tired, yes, but also accomplished and more confident.
Soon, mixing errands and kids won’t seem so daunting—even if it still takes 10 minutes just to get to the car.
Get more tips:
- On Rediscovering Yourself After Motherhood
- How to Be a Good Mom (Even When You Feel Discouraged)
- 7 Ideas to Pull Yourself Out of a Bad Parenting Day
- Why Boredom is Good for Your Child
- How to Be Out with Twins Alone (And Actually Survive!)
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