Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Doing errands with a toddler: Slowing down to speed things up

Running errands isn't much fun
Recently, I had a big errand-running day with Munchkin. We were out for about 2 hours and made 5 stops. We did it without buying any new toys (and yes, we went through the toy aisle, twice), without treats or "incentives", and without a meltdown or tantrum. Even when we got back home, Munchkin never had his typical post-outing meltdown.

Maybe for some seasoned moms, this is no big thing. For us, it was a big deal. I have to admit, I'm incredibly proud of us! Usually, I can only manage 1, maaaaaybe 2, stops in a single outing before Munchkin comes undone. He gets overstimulated. He gets tired, but never falls asleep away from home. He gets hungry, but is too distracted to eat when we're out and about. He gets disconnected from me because he is so captivated by discovering the world. When we return home, he usually has a breakdown, whining and crying for comfort to soothe all those mixed up feelings.

For me, running errands with a toddler can be tense and stressful. I try to balance my need to complete tasks with his needs, but that doesn't always happen. I feel hurried to get everything done before he gets too tired, hungry, or overwhelmed. Then I really feel the pressure when we get home and he has his meltdown. Since I often have to take him with me, I've been working on making our outings less demanding for both of us.

On the day in question, I must have hit the mark. Maybe Munchkin was just having a really great day. Still, I keep reflecting on what I did to help our errands go so smoothly. Because I definitely want to repeat this pattern!

I gave advance notice of what we were doing next. Munchkin could prepare himself for what was about to happen. It was also a useful way to set a limit ahead of time and to let him know he was included in my plans: this IS what we're doing and you ARE coming, too.

I didn't rush him. I let him take his time exploring the toy aisle, picking up and replacing shampoo bottles, and wandering about the store carrying and kicking a ball through most of it. Funny, it actually took less time this way than trying to persuade him to do these things on my time scale (I'm an in-and-out kind of shopper).

I reconnected with him frequently. Between stops, or when we were getting in and out of the car, I was present and authentic. I talked and listened to Munchkin, gave him hugs, and looked him in the eye as I buckled him in. It was clear that we were doing this errand together.

I made time to sit and have a snack together. I spotted a bench outside one of the shops and I thought it would be a good place to take a break. I always carry snacks with us on outings, but I usually let him eat in the car (you know, to save time, ha!). Eating on the bench was much better. Not only did Munchkin get to refuel his body's needs, he also got some valuable time to connect with me. Now that's what I call efficient shopping!

Overall, it seems that my keys to success were being more patient, being fully present, and staying connected. I might not be able to repeat this every time we run errands, but at least now I have a benchmark. I know that I can do it. I can get stuff done without Munchkin coming undone. All I have to do is slow down and things go a lot faster!

What do your errand days look like? I'd love to hear from you!


  1. LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE! THIS! POST! I try not to run errands with my toddler often as the stimulation kills her but once or twice a month we just have to!!!! Great suggestions. I added this to Pinterist and will share on FB!

  2. Thank you for the love, ladies!