You’re picking up dinner, dropping off dry cleaning, heading to the school to get your first grader and your toddler is screaming in the back seat the entire time. Sound familiar? Perhaps your toddler decides to throw a knock down drag out temper tantrum on the floor of the grocery store while you’re picking up dinner.
What’s wrong with them? Why won’t they behave? The answer actually lies with you. You do have the ability to actually run errands with your toddler and stay sane. Here are my personal tips on how to run errands with a toddler without wanting to pull your own hair out.
How to Run Errands with a Toddler and Stay Sane
Know your child’s limits.
If you’ve just picked your toddler up from day care or if they’ve just woken from a nap, they may be too tired or too wired to sit still and behave. And if they’re hungry you can bet their 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 grocery store and then they’ve earned twenty minutes at the park.
My kids were the worst after being picked up in the afternoon. A 10 minute grocery trip may not seem like much, but it was a recipe for disaster for us. So I stopped and fit it into my schedule at another time.
Know your own limits.
Sometimes our rational brain is working and we can manage a toddler like we’re a superhero. Other times, all logic and reason goes 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.
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. Have them find as many blue boxes as they can on the shelf. Point out interesting things in your surroundings. Engage your child in the process.
Combine your errands with 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?” We also loved the dollar bins at Target. We only went at the end of the trip as long as it went well. The kids often felt good that they had earned a treat.
Learn their 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.