Tips for Running Errands with Toddlers

It was dinnertime and the grocery cart was full and paid for, but I was waiting in the line for the pharmacy. A half dozen people milled about waiting their turn at the window. We were out of the medicine so I couldn't leave. I had to wait. And yet still my toddler screamed.

Sound familiar? Have you been stuck with a screaming toddler? It may be easy to blame them with bad behavior, but our own choices can make a difference on the outcome of our daily errand run. Here are some tips so that running errands with toddlers may not be so hard.

Plan Ahead When Running Errands with Toddlers

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 will make the errand running adventure so much more fun.

Know Your Child’s Limits

If your toddler has just woken from a nap, they may be too tired to sit still and behave. If they’re hungry you can bet they're 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, consider just how much time they will stay that way before they reach their limit.

Know Your Own Limits

Sometimes our rational brain is working. When our rational brain is working, we can manage a toddler like we’re a superhero. Other times, all logic and reason go 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. Sometimes positive moments with your children will take priority over your errands.

Get Your Toddlers Involved When Running Errands

It may sound strange, but you can 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. Even little choices will give them power. Let them choose which can of peaches or which bundle of bananas to add to your cart. If you’re at the dry cleaner, ask them to help carry something and hand it to the clerk.

If there’s really nothing they can do to help, distract them with conversation. Point out interesting things in your surroundings. Engage your child in the process.

Are you driving around a lot? This can be boring for the little ones too, but there are also lots of fun activities to do in the car to encourage learning. Check out my post Early Lessons: Literacy in the Car for ideas.

Sometimes there really is nothing the child can do while you run your errands. Consider what you can do with your child after the errands are done. Then keep your promise to your child and do that activity with them, even if it's just a snuggle or a short story. 

Have Compassion on Your Toddlers

Remember that day in the grocery store, waiting in the line for the pharmacy? There was no way out of the situation. I had to wait. And I could not control my toddler.

As I said a little prayer for strength to carry on, I felt a sense of peace flow over me. I felt calm because I saw the situation from above. This little child was uncomfortable. I couldn't stop her. It did not matter what other people thought about the scene that she was making. She just needed love, and that I could give. 

Showing our children compassion is much easier said than done, but I'm grateful for that glimpse of what it is all about. Finishing our errands with little ones around is certainly not easy, but we can do it. Try to remember your limits, keep your toddler involved in the errands, and show compassion when the feelings overwhelm them.

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