Getting out of the house with young children can certainly feel overwhelming. When you think of planning a day trip with your kids, what comes to mind? Whining, impatience, urgency, and stress? Whether a simple trip to the grocery store or an all-day outing to a museum, some planning ahead and simple strategies can turn a stressful trip into a fun outing. Here are some strategies that I’ve learned along the way:
Take your time. If you try to rush your kids along, they will get stressed and cranky. It’s okay if you only see three of the possible 15 exhibits at the museum you are visiting. It’s also okay if you take 90 minutes to navigate the grocery store instead of 45 minutes. Spending a little bit of extra time will be well worth it if allows everyone to stay relaxed and have fun. One of the easiest ways to slow your pace is to look for educational opportunities in every day experiences. Do you hear tree trimmers down the road? Pack a blanket, snacks, and water and go set up shop for an hour. Leave your phone at home and talk to your children about what they are seeing. Is the baker using the bread slicer at the grocery store? Hang out for a few minutes to explain the machine to your children. Engage the baker, too. Often times they are happy to interact with your children. Maybe they will even offer a free sample. Are you walking across a bridge on the way to an errand? Pause and play a game with your children. Pick out some objects such as sticks, leaves, and rocks. Toss them in the water and have your children guess if it will sink or float. Young minds find processes fascinating, so don’t assume that the seemingly mundane exhibit of rocks in the corner of the museum won’t be your child’s favorite thing to learn about that day. Let you children guide you, and take your time.
Pack well. No matter where you are headed, there are a few essential items that you should always pack. Bring water for everyone, including yourself. If you have a long drive home, make sure to refill your children’s cups before you hit the road. When kids are having fun, they tend to forget thirst, and the last thing you need is a toddler crying for water just as you hit the highway. Always pack a spare snack. Toddlers also tend to forget hunger when they are having fun. Try to pack car friendly snacks so you can throw them to the back seat if needed. Extra clothes are a must have. You never know when your baby will have a diaper blow-out or when your toddler will face plant belly down into a muddy puddle. Make sure to include more than just undies and pants. Throw a shirt and socks in there too, just in case. On that note, pack extra diapers, because you never know if your baby will inexplicably poop three times in two hours. If you are visiting a museum or zoo, take the extra time to pack lunches so that you don’t have to waste time standing in a crowded cafeteria line while your hungry kids get crankier by the minute. For tips on essential packing, check out A Well Packed Diaper Bag.
Schedule your trip well. This can be tricky with nap schedules, especially if your children are on opposite schedules. If you can plan naps during car rides, your day will free up quite a bit. Bring your children’s sleep items such as blankets and stuffed animals. Take their shoes off. Blast the car fans for white noise. If the car ride is only 30 minutes, drive around for 60 minutes instead so your kids can snooze. It seems silly, but sacrificing 30 minutes of the day to allow your kids a decent nap will allow you to get out and about more often. For tips on scheduling around naps, check out Scheduling Your Day Trip.
Dress your kids in brightly colored clothing and shoes. This will allow your children a bit more freedom, since it will be easier for you to keep an eye on them. I find that I feel more comfortable letting my three year old wander through a crowd when he’s wearing his neon pink dinosaur shirt and bright red sneakers, because I don’t visually lose him in a crowd as easily. He may not be the most fashion-forward, but hey, he’s three. Who cares?
Let them get dirty. Trust me. I get it. Sand and sticky things are the worst. But kids get dirty when they play and learn. It’s silly to allow yourself to stress about keeping your kids shiny and clean. And if you constantly chase your kids around, wiping them off every time they get dirty, they are going to pick up on your stress, and parental stress causes kids to get cranky. You can give them a good wipe down when it’s time to hop in the car. On a similar note, let them get wet. It’ll dry. Sure, it’s kind of hard to watch your kids splash around in muddy puddles, but just think about how much joy it brought you to splash around in middy puddles when you were a kid. And after all, you packed spare clothes, right?
More for tips and ideas on getting out of the house with young children, visit Just Mom It.
Guest author: Cyndi, from Just Mom It.