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Five Tips for Running Errands With Young Children


Running errands isn’t usually very much fun, but it’s made even harder when you have young children. Going in and out of multiple stores and driving around town, all while trying to wrangle infants, toddlers, and preschoolers can be completely exhausting!

Don’t put off running your errands because you dread taking your children along! There are a few things you can do to make your afternoon of errands go as smoothly as possible.

Avoid Leaving Children Unattended In the Car

Don't leave your child unattended in the car, even if you're just running into the store for a few minutes. Approximately 37 children die every year from heat-related deaths because they were left in the car while a parent or caregiver was running errands or forgot them in the backseat.

Even if you’re just running into the grocery store to pick up a few things and you know you can do it a lot faster if you do it by yourself, you should always take your children out of the car.

However, it is important to get specific about what it means to leave your children “unattended”, as there are some cases when leaving them in the car might be okay.

If you’re getting gas and you’ve got the windows rolled down, it’s probably okay to leave your child in the car. The same is true if you’re running mail to an outdoor mailbox a few feet away. If you can directly see your children and get the errand completed in seconds, it may be easier to leave them in the car.

Talk About Your Plans for the Day

Even very young children understand more than we give them credit for, even if they are too young to express themselves well. Although you may think running errands will be exciting for them, your children may be nervous not knowing where they are going, what they are going to do when they get there, and how long it’s all going to take.

Your children are more likely to relax and be a little more well-behaved if you talk about your plans for the day. Talk about where you’re going first, if you’re making any fun stops that they will enjoy, and if there will be any treats at the end, like getting ice cream or going to the park. 

Give Them Jobs to Do

Your children want to help. You should let them! Although the kind of help your young toddler can provide may not seem very helpful, if they feel like they are involved and needed, they are more likely to be on their best behavior when you’re running errands.

A few ways toddlers can help include:

  • Carrying an item when you’re shopping

  • Helping you look for an item on the shelf

  • Grabbing an item from the shelf

  • Holding the grocery list

  • Helping you choose which thing to get

Use a Cart or Bring a Stroller

Think grabbing your child from the car seat and running inside real quick will be easier? Unless your errand takes less than 30 seconds, you should use a cart. Even if your toddler says they will hold your hand and even if you think you can carry the baby, you’ll be a lot less stressed if your child is contained.

If there are no carts, bring a stroller! Just make sure you leave that big, bulky stroller at home. Instead, bring a lightweight stroller, like an umbrella stroller, so your child has a place to sit if they get tired or if you get tired of carrying them.

Make Time for a Break

Running multiple errands in a single day can help you save time and money on gas, especially if you have errands to run across town, but it can all be very overwhelming for young children.

It isn’t uncommon for young children to get overstimulated when seeing, hearing, and smelling so many new things. Do yourself and your child a favor by making time to take a break when you’re running errands.

If possible, return home for nap time and let your child take a quick snooze. If you are away from home, snuggle up in the backseat or play at the park for a little while.

Running errands with children will always be more of a challenge than doing it by yourself, but it isn’t impossible! There are ways to make it easier for you and your children so you enjoy an afternoon spent running in and out of stores.

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