In a perfect world we could walk leisurely up and down the supermarket aisles, have some quiet time while waiting in line at the post office, and take our time browsing the shops at the mall. But in the real world, we sometimes have to run errands with our young children in tow. And we all know what a challenge that can be!
Bringing along snacks, drinks, and small playthings to keep your little ones occupied is always a good idea. But there are also several ways to involve your children in the errands to make them more fun, educational, and stress-free! Here are some ideas for the three errands mentioned above that can be applied in a variety of situations.
At the grocery store:
- Whenever you need more than one of an item—three apples, two onions, etc.—ask your child to count them out and place them in the bag or cart for you.
- Cut out pictures of different foods from magazines (or print them out from the Internet). Then, each time you go to the grocery store, give your child a different mix of pictures so she can do a scavenger hunt for the items as you move through the aisles.
- Whenever you can, let your child choose what you buy. Ask her, “Should we get the blueberry or strawberry yogurt?” “Would you like to pick broccoli or green beans to eat with dinner tonight?”
- Ask your child questions about the items as you purchase them, such as, “What color is this squash?” or, “What do you see on the back of this cereal box?”
At the post office:
- Ask your child to count how many people are ahead of you in line. As each person gets called, ask how many are left before it’s your turn.
- Have your child come up with his silliest ideas for what the people ahead of you may be shipping. Say something like, “That man at the second window has an awfully large box. I think he is mailing an elephant to his friend in China! What do you think?” (Of course, you’ll have to remind your child to use his indoor voice!)
- If your post office has boxes and mailing envelopes on display (most do), ask your child to think of things she owns that may fit in them. Say, “That box is the perfect size for your dump truck. What else might fit in there?”
- Talk about what you are shipping. You could say, “We’re mailing Grandma her birthday present. Do you remember what we got her? How much do you think the postage will cost? How long do you think it will take to get to her?”
At the mall:
- Play a game of “I Spy” with your child. See if he can find a stroller, a store with the letter “A” in its name, an escalator, etc.
- People-watch with your kiddo. Ask her to look for little girls holding their moms’ hands, men wearing baseball caps, little boys with light-up sneakers, etc.
- Have your child “lead the way” by keeping an eye out for the next store you need to visit and letting you know when he spots it.
- Present challenges to your child as you walk between stores. See how many verses of “Old McDonald” she can sing, what number she can count to, or how many blue things she can find before you get to your next stop.
Do you have any tips for making errands fun? Share them below in the comments!