If you have a toddler you know taking a toddler out in public is no walk in the park (even when it’s an intended walk in the park)! Here are 12 tips to survive toddler outings and make it a better experience for the whole family!
I feel like it’s the running mom joke on social media to post a picture of a crying or screaming toddler and share how their “fun family outing” is going. I smile; we definitely have had a few events like that! We’ve all had toddler outings where you find yourself wanting to discipline your child and say, “Stop throwing a fit and start having fun- this is a FUN day!”
It’s a lot of work to get out the door with a toddler dressed, fed, and actually in their car seat without a fit, and feeling like you’re sacrificing time as a mom to help them have fun and new experiences with toddler challenges can be a ton of work, and take a ton of guts!
I’ve learned we all do better when we get out, and my toddler certainly sleeps better, but I admit there are days I opt for staying home just thinking about the potential fits that could occur. But as we work through this process I’ve developed a mindset and a list of hacks that help things go more smoothly and get us out of the house helping my toddler learn and his mom stay a little saner.
Pack all the snacks!
Hanger is a thing, and it’s REALLY a thing in toddlers who get too distracted to eat. I’ve found pulling a snack out at the opportune moment in a must and having variety often saves us.
Feed them before you go!
Even if it’s a lunch date or picnic, most kids eat better when it’s not social or distracting, so try to get at least some food in them before you leave.
Go right when they wake up or right after a nap.
A tired kid stuck in a museum or the middle of story time is never a good thing! I’m learning to adapt more and more to nap time the older he gets, and noting we’ll do the other things when he outgrows naps. For now, mornings or afternoons are our jam, and he’s a completely different kid with energy.
Go with friends or when both parents or a grandparent can attend.
I only have one child, but I’m amazed at how much easier it is going with friends who have three or four kids! My toddler copies the older children and listens and tries to behave better. There’s another adult in case you need to run to the bathroom or refill the water bottle, and boy can an extra set of hands for a minute really add up! I also love that it’s social time for me making it more exciting, and social time for him helping him learn better social skills.
Be consistent and get out frequently!
I love what someone told me on Instagram when I posted about going out to dinner frequently with our toddler, she said that someone gave her the advice “How will they know how to behave at a restaurant if they are rarely taken there?”
I feel the same taking my toddler out to events. The more we’ve gone to music class the more he’s learned the routine and the better he does. He knows we go out a few times a week, and he’s learned to get dressed faster, eat breakfast, and enjoy car rides more.
Visit the same places.
It’s less exciting to me, but he seems to like familiarity and I’ve found buying a season pass to a museum or heading to the same park really makes a difference. The more they feel they have a handle on their environment the better they seem to behave and the more they look forward to it.
Be consistent with how you handle fits.
They learn what to expect. We remove ourselves from the situation and fun and give a minute to calm down and time out. He knows if he proceeds he loses out, and the more consistent I am the better these are squelched when we’re in public. You may have to leave a few times, but they start to get the picture that you mean business. You also get the picture of when they’re worn out or overstimulated.
Be positive and talk it up!
The more I say “Oh watching your cousin’s kindergarten program is going to be so fun! The songs will be so fun!” the more he starts to repeat “So fun!” and the attitude seriously rubs off. If you’re dreading it I honestly believe they take on that attitude too. Do your best to psych yourself up.
Know your kid and know their limit.
My child loves to be out and about and has a ton of energy, but he’s also a bit introverted and likes to have some alone time and time to just be with his mom. One of my best friends has a super shy child who can only last about an hour or two. My kid loves to swim and active play, some kids love to sit and be entertained. Try to help with new experiences, but also be sensitive to what they enjoy and what they can handle.
Mimic good behavior.
When I point out I’m waiting in line because we have to take turns he starts to realize that’s protocol. When I thank the museum staff he often turns and thanks them too. They are little sponges at this age, and when you model how we do things, they do eventually catch on even if it’s a hard process.
Remind yourself why you’re doing this.
Are you trying to help them love reading so you’re heading to the library? Are you hoping to wear them out so you started gymnastics? Toddler outings are part of the big picture. Focus on the goal, and be okay with baby steps, they are learning big social and life skills here!
Be patient with the process.
We’ve had family dates I hoped would be amazing and he just wasn’t into it. We’ve had days he gets in the car and two minutes later says, “I go home now.” But we’ve also had a family trip across the country where a month later he woke up and asked, “Please I ride an airplane today?” You have to know they are still little. That means cutting some slack while they frustrate you is just part of the game. Yes, even when you are tackling a tiny tornado that you offered the wrong applesauce flavor to (how dare you!).
I should also note that keeping yourself in balance and being ready and in good health is essential to having the guts too!
Being human takes guts. Make sure yours are up for it. I know I need to work out to feel calm and patient, that’s just how it goes with me. I need to eat good food so I’m not tired, get enough sleep, and take care of myself too! I’d particularly add we need this even more as parents of toddlers!
So there are my tips and tricks, and I have to say that keeping at them and reminding myself always helps me get the guts to take the toddler in public. Anything I missed? What do you do to make family outings/mom and tot days more smooth?
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