Before we plunge into the discussion of how to run errands with children, I confess that running errands with my own kids is definitely something I’d put off doing or “delegate” my husband to do as much as possible. I remembered those relatively easy days when my girls were still infants who, seemingly perpetually asleep in their car seats or strollers, were oblivious to the rapidly filling shopping carts or the frantic dashes to get various chores done. Ah, the good old days!
Things get a bit tougher as they get older. And if anyone thinks that girls can’t be just as loud and rowdy as boys, they are sorely mistaken! Though typically well-behaved, they definitely love to act up in stores. Maybe it’s the smell? The disorientating sights and sounds? Youthful exuberance? Whatever causes them to act up, I needed to find a better way and to learn how to run errands with children so I don’t go bonkers!
The worst offender with my kids is the typical loudness that’s ever present with them. Second would be the rowdy horseplay, followed by the weaving in and out of the flow of store traffic, the squeezing into tight spaces, and just the generally erratic bodily movement that makes walking next to them a hazard.
While there is no silver bullet for all “misdeeds”, a little bit of planning ahead is all it takes to alleviate most of the headaches encountered while running errands with your kids.
Overtired: When to Schedule
It never ceases to amaze me to see hapless infants screaming their guts out in their car seats or strollers, being dragged all over the store by their parents, way past bedtime. When’s bedtime? While I tend to think that 9 o’clock is fairly standard for infants and young children, bedtime can be as liberal as whatever hour that’s set and tolerated by your children, albeit in a consistent manner. That time has to be respectfully followed, day in and day out.
Try to imagine: your babies (or toddlers or young children) really don’t appreciate working “swing shifts”. Some days they make it in bed by 9 p.m.; some days, 10 p.m.; yet some other days, 11 p.m. or so. For no rhyme or reason, their bedtime is an ever-shifting deadline. It tests their understanding and wears out their trust. It throws them in a tizzy and exhausts their patience. The only thing left to do is to let it all out — scream to drown things out and perhaps get some shut-eye.
Bottom line: Get your kids home in time for their naps or bedtime. Plan your shopping trips around your kids’ sleep schedule (at least during their first critical two years.) It can go a long way in establishing the safety and reassurance that they need in their tender years.
Overstimulated: Don’t Over-schedule
Closely related to being overtired, over-stimulation is definitely the end result of keeping kids awake past their bedtime. But over-stimulation also comes from too much of a good thing.
Every waking hour, your baby or young child is bombarded with new sights, new sounds, new smells, new sensations. Just imagine for a minute that you are taken to a loud party where you are introduced to and required to shake hands with two dozens or so people. Then you are dragged over to the perfume shop and immersed in a hundred different overpowering smells. Next, you are thrust into a movie theater and compelled to sit through a series of flashing screens completed with heart-pounding stereo sounds. Lastly, you are dropped off at a candy store to sample 10 or so different items.
While any one of the above activities might be appealing for a duration of time, most people would agree that too much of a good thing ceases to be amusing but feels more like a chore.
Well, that’s how our babies feel when they are overstimulated.
Bottom line: Don’t try to cram too much into one errand trip. Don’t wear out their good will and quit while you’re ahead to preserve their energy and trust.
Bored: Give Them the “Why”
The flip side of over-stimulation can be just as bad. Children who are stuck with extensive errand runs, beauty appointments, doctor’s visits, idle shopping excursions, adult conversations, etc… are not seeing the point of tagging along when there’s “nothing in it” for them! I’m not suggesting bribery, buying trinkets and candies or yielding to unfounded demands from children just for the sake of completing your tasks.
But I do suggest preparing your children, mentally and emotionally, for the longer errand-runs. Pack some small toys, a bit of healthy snacks, water or juice bottle, a coloring book, pillows and blankets, or whatever that will allow a bit of home comfort for your children while away from home. For older children, ask them to locate items in the store that are safe for them to reach and put into the basket. For younger ones, play a game of “I spy” to pass the time. Give them sense and purpose, and they are likely to reward you with attentiveness and good manners.
Also, prepare them mentally to accept that errand-running is just a part of life. Explain to them that if they don’t grocery-shop, there’ll be no strawberry jam for breakfast, no ice-cream for dessert, no tuna for Mr. Puss… so if they’d be patient and keep themselves entertained, the chores can be done much sooner than anticipated.
Bottom line: Help them keep calm by teaching them to entertain themselves. Engage them in helping or just identifying things. Explain things to them so they learn to be respectful and attentive to the needs of the entire family.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You, too can learn how to run errands with children and avoid getting put into a quandary where you are tempted to decide between your sanity or your children’s safety when in fact, you can have both!
What do you do to keep your kids calm and safe while running errands with them?