Tips for Running Errands with Kids

I love having my kids around. Yes, sometimes I need a break just like every mom I know, but more often than not I choose to have them with me.

Since they were born, they have been my little sidekicks to the grocery store, mall, thrift shopping, estate sales and basically for most of my errands.

When Charlie was born I was working full time. I was away from him 40-50 hours per week and it made me miserable. I would work all day and then have to get my errands, such as grocery shopping, done in the evenings.

I missed him so much while I was at work that I would bring him along for my errands in the evenings so that I didn’t have to be away from him any longer.

Thankfully, I now work very part time and from home so I don’t have to be away from them often, yet I still choose to bring them with me for 95% of my errands.

I’ve just gotten so used to  having them with me and they love it.

Every day my son asks me “mama, where are we going today?”, because he already knows that wherever I go, they go.

Taking the kids everywhere certainly comes with it’s challenges and unexpected meltdowns or moods but, like I said, through trial and error I’ve learned their queues and how to structure our outings in such a way as to limit these unexpected outbursts.

Yes, we still have the occasional meltdown but for the most part, we get our errands done and everyone stays happy and calm!

If you are a new mom or having challenges with running errands with kids, here are the ways that I prepare for a day full of errands!

Plan your week

I like to plan my week out in advance. I work Mondays and Tuesdays so I don’t run any errands on those days. I just work and then we spend the evenings home together making dinner and then hanging out before bed.

That leaves Wednesday – Friday for errands.

The key for us is not to cram too many errands in one day but also, not have too many hectic days of running errands back to back. I have to space them out so that the kids don’t get too tired for too long.

Here is what last week looked like as an example:

Monday: Work

Tuesday: Work

Wednesday: I worked from home in the morning and the kids stayed with their nanny. In the afternoon we just stayed home, did some chores around the house, made dinner, went for a walk and then bedtime.

Thursday: We went to the gym right after breakfast from 8:00am – 9:00am, the kids love the kids club there.

After the gym, we went home and the kids had a small snack and then Claire napped for an hour while I showered and got ready for our errands.

From about 10:30am – 1:30pm, we went grocery shopping and to Target. We got home around 1:30pm and the kids ate lunch and both had their afternoon naps.

Those were all the errands we ran on Thursday.

Friday: In the morning we just ate breakfast and took it easy. My kids are awake at 7:00am, so our days starts early. We mostly just played in our pajamas for a couple of hours. Claire had her first nap around 9:00am and while she was napping I showered and got ready for the day.

At 10:30am we met up with my sister in-law for donuts and coffee and then we went on a trip to Ikea. I needed to get a few things for the home! We spent about two hours in Ikea, and that was our only errand for the day.

Although I ran errands two days in a row, I kept them to half days so that I don’t miss the kids naps.

Planning my week in advance helps me build errands around the kids nap schedules so that I don’t get stuck needing to run errands with tired, grumpy kids.

Set Expectations

I like to tell Charlie what our plans are for the day so he knows what to expect. I also tell him that if he is a good boy, when we are done with our errand, we can stop at the toy section for a little so that he can play. I also set the expectation that we are not buying any toys, we are just playing for a little and then putting them back.

If he gets impatient or tries to act out while we are shopping, I can use that as leverage. One time he actually acted out and I didn’t stop at the toys, which made him act out even more. I literally just left the cart with all of my groceries in it and we left the store and went home.

He was quiet the whole way home, he knew I was upset and he didn’t get to go to the toys. Now he knows that I am serious about only going to the toys if he is a good boy.

We also have a little tradition that anytime we run an errand in the morning, we get “coffees” together. I get my coffee and he gets a steamer. It starts the errand on a fun positive note and he loves and always looks forward to it.

Although I am setting the expectation that he needs to behave, I make it fun and rewarding when he does.

Basic Necessities

What sorts of things make anyone grumpy? Being hungry and being tired, right?! Now imagine trying to grocery shop with a child that is not fed and hasn’t slept well… you are just asking for a disaster! Trust me, I know from my “trial and error” days.

This is why I plan my weeks out so that I can fit in all of my errands in between naps. I try to avoid skipping naps as often as possible and if I do need to skip a nap one day, the next day we stay home and the kids have solid naps to make up for it.

When they are babies it’s easy because they fall asleep in their car seats, so this mainly applies to toddlers.

I don’t even bother running my errands when either of my kids are already tired and in need of a nap. I’ve learned that I am better off waiting a few hours so they can sleep and go later.

As far as hunger goes, I make sure they are well fed before we leave the house. I always like to keep a few different types of foods pre-made in the fridge so that I can quickly warm them up before we leave. I don’t sit there and prepare a gourmet, from scratch meal on the days we have errands.

On the days that I cook, I cook extras to have them ready for quick and easy meals.

The next, and probably biggest life saver for me are snacks. Lots of snacks. I wear big bags for a reason, they are full of snacks for my kids. I keep crackers, pretzels, nuts and bananas with me. These are all portable, healthy snacks that aren’t too messy.

As soon as I see them getting bored, I pull out a bag of goodies and that always does the trick!

Also, don’t get mad or annoyed when they need to use the restroom. Even though it seems to always be at the most inconvenient times, when you gotta go, you gotta go!

I just try to be super patient about public bathroom breaks. I literally hate them because the bathrooms are filthy but I just bite my tongue and we move on. It’s not worth ruining the good mood over.

Include Them

I talk to my kids a lot while we run errands. I walk them through what we are doing, they ask questions, I answer. I don’t just plop them in a shopping cart and expect them to sit there in silence so that I can focus.

I create a shopping list at home and check things off as we go. If I’m in a grumpy mood, they will mirror my behavior so I try to stay positive and keep moving.

At Trader Joe’s they have the small carts so I let Charlie use that for groceries while we walk around. Basically, just try to keep them entertained when you start seeing that their patience is wearing thin.

Claire is still small so just giving her something to hold from the cart makes her happy.

When All Else Fails

I bring along a few toys and pull them out at the end when things start getting out of hand. If that doesn’t work, I will open a new snack out of the cart. And when all else fails, sometimes you have to either bribe them with something until you get through the check stand and pay, or when it gets really bad, just accept your losses and leave the store.

However, I can honestly say that this rarely happens anymore. If the kids are fed, not tired and have a few distractions that you can pull out of your bag as time goes on, they should be able to last an errand or two, for the most part.

But bad days happen and random tantrums happen, sometimes there’s just nothing you can do about it!

The biggest thing I have learned over time is to plan and prepare in advance. This helps make our outings not only fun but also efficient. I can get what I need to get done and the kids have a great time.

Like I said in the beginning of this post, I love having my kids with me and so I had to figure out how to make it work. I didn’t want to have to always hire a babysitter just so that I could get things done.

I’d like to think that because I brought them everywhere with me from when they were born, they got used to it. I also think it’s important for kids to learn to control their emotions (this happens over time and with lots of practice and patience!) and learning each time you are out and about it such great practice!

One trip may seem like a failure because you had to leave your cart with everything there and walk out, but it may have been great practice for your child to see what happens when they act out. It was frustrating when it happened to me, but my son learned that if he acts out, there is no reward and no fun.

Each child is different and these are the things that work really well for us. You may have lots of other great ideas and if you are struggling, try something new!

Don’t give up and feel like you can’t run errands or get things done. Motherhood is all about that trial and error and when things go south, just remember, each day is a new day. Life goes on and the kids grow up, so just keep on doing your best 🙂

I would love to hear some of the ways you make running errands with kids easier and more efficient, shoot me an email or leave a comment below!

PS: My gorgeous backpack is from TAH Bags. You can shop this Commuter Bag here.

Now, here’s to a productive week!

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