Avoid the madness with these practical tips on how to run errands with kids and not go crazy. Get things done and even enjoy the time you spend together!
Errands and kids. Somehow they don’t mix as well as I wish they would. I’m either alone with them and need to run my errands, kids or not. Or I want to take them with me to cut down on time.
But getting to the car takes at least 10 minutes. My hands are full with bags galore. When my twins were babies, I debated needing to take the stroller to the grocery and wondered how I’d push that and the shopping cart. And I was scared they’d have a public meltdown.
How to run errands with kids and not go crazy
Just today, I was alone with the kids and decided to stay home instead of getting their hair cut. I had no energy to pack or deal with potential whining and complaining. I know how hard it can be to get out of the house.
Still, sometimes I need to, and other times I’m up for the challenge. What are my go-to moves to running errands with kids?
1. Go when your kids are well-rested, fed and clean
By far this is the number one rule to run errands with kids. Go after your kids have napped (or woken up from the morning) so they feel refreshed, not cranky. Another alternative, especially for babies, is to go when they’re about to nap. They can sleep while you’re out on a stroll. (I don’t recommend doing this often though since they may not sleep as long as when they’re at home.)
Go after a snack or meal to avoid hungry tummies. Bring snacks to get them through the errand in case they’re still hungry. And finally, 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.
Dealing with a child who wakes up cranky from naps is enough to ruin the rest of your day and test your patience in ways you never thought possible. And when your toddler’s cranky naps happen day after day, you realize that this just might not go away on its own.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. And thankfully, you have a solution! My guide, No Cranky Naps, gives you the exact tips, strategies, and mindset shifts to turn those cranky naps around! Want to see if it can work for you? Join my newsletter and download a preview chapter, at no cost to you:
2. Do just one errand
Once your kids are well-rested, fed and clean, your next go-to move is to pick just 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. 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 I have my kids on an errand. Any time you’re buying several items, make a list so you don’t forget or feel flustered. Or you might be at the mall and need to pick up a few things from different stores. Write them down to stay organized.
4. Run your errand in the morning
One of the benefits of kids waking up early is 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.
If you run errands in the morning, you’ll have the whole place to yourself. No 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.
5. Give your kids items to hold
Kids are pretty good about observing and delighting 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.
However, don’t give them an item from the store you don’t plan to buy. 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 all the way to the car I was tempted to go back and get the darn book.
6. Put a bib on your infant or toddler for spit ups
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One of the hassles moms have about running errands with kids is how to deal with the usual spit ups or drooling. I put a bib on my kids all day long, including errands. When they were babies, I’d also keep a light swaddle blanket like these that served as a burp cloth.
7. Talk to your kids while you run errands
Sometimes it’s easy to feel silly holding what seems like one-sided conversations, especially with babies and toddlers. But talking to them lets them know they’re included. They’re not something we tote along like an afterthought, but a genuine companion.
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 your child’s behavior as well as your own.
8. Remember it gets easier
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’ve 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 zillion 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. Whereas you never thought you could take them to the local store, you’re now bringing them to the zoo, all by yourself. You come home feeling tired, yes, but also accomplished and more confident.
And mixing errands and kids won’t seem so daunting, even if it still takes 10 minutes just to get to the car.