The babysitter didn't show. School's closed for flu. You've got appointments to keep. What are you going to do? Here are some tips for running errands with your toddler in tow (and your sanity intact).
- Keep your child's schedule in mind. If your toddler usually naps from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a noon trip to the dry cleaners is more likely to trigger a meltdown. You might have to make more than one trip to get all of your errands done, but the extra gas may be worth it.
- Tag team. Consider running errands with a friend (preferably one who has kids around the same age as yours). She can distract your child (and vice versa) when necessary or, if things get really bad, one mom can sit in the car with all the kids while the other gets the shopping done for both households.
- Get the important things done first. Do the errands that can't wait until tomorrow, today. Of course you don't want to make multiple trips, but "trying to cover too much territory can backfire," Jen Singer points out at American Baby.
- Bring your bag of tricks. Just as having special toys at the ready helps when you have to work from home with little kids underfoot, having a set of "car toys" that only come out when you're in the minivan can make running errands a treat instead of a chore.
- Make at least one of the errands "kid friendly." Stopping at the playground after the post office is a welcome break that can help keep boredom at bay for the rest of the day. No time for the swings? Pick up a cookie at the bakery before you steer your cart toward the grocery store check-out line; it'll make the wait a lot sweeter for your child.
- Pack plenty of the necessities. There are several things you should keep on hand whenever you leave your house with your child in tow: Wipes, diapers, juice boxes or sippy cups, snacks, extra clothing, and small trash bags are among the basics you should keep stashed in your car at all times.
- Let your child get involved. Just because he's strapped in the cart doesn't mean he doesn't want to help. Have your toddler help you pick items in the produce aisle -- he can point to the perfect apples if you don't want him to touch them.
- Build extra time into your schedule. Sure, when you run errands alone you might be able to get everything done in a couple of hours. But toddlers dawddle, mishaps occur, and going anywhere with kids takes extra time. Planning for it will significantly reduce your stress levels.
- Shop online. Avoiding a public meltdown may be worth the price of shipping. Bonus: Some stores allow you to buy online but make returns at a brick-and-mortar location.