4 Tips For Running Errands Successfully With Your Kiddos

I am very seldom afforded the luxury of running errands alone. If I don’t have all seven kiddos tagging along for the ride, I will at least have a couple. While an afternoon of running around would be most pleasant spent alone, I’m certainly not complaining about having my young’ens in tow more often than not. In fact, I’ve become quite used to it and have some simple tips to share for making your afternoon of dragging taking your kids along for the ride a smooth one.

1. Allow yourself plenty of time

First of all, be sure you have plenty of time while out and about. Inevitably there will be a need to stop to go potty, find a drinking fountain, or wait for a dawdling child. Now, I know his isn’t always possible, but it’s a good idea to add in some extra time when planning an afternoon full of lots of stops.

Another great idea is to be sure you don’t run out the door in a hurried and stressed. There have been more times than I’d like to admit when I’ve been yelling at a child, as we’re rushing out the door, because he couldn’t find his shoes. All because I was rushed. This is not a great start to an afternoon of running errands. Trust me.

2. Lay out clear expectations

My children are required to adhere to certain rules, whether we are at home or out and about. However, there are extra rules they must obey when we are in public. Mostly because I don’t want to lose one of them, but also because I don’t want them wreaking havoc during our run. I always try to remind them of these rules as we head out of our driveway.

I also tell them exactly what I require of them before we arrive at our first destination. for one particular trip, it may be imperative, for my own sanity, that they not ask any questions about where we are going, how long we wil be there, or what we are getting. At the beginning of other trips, however, I give them an overview of what they can expect – where we will go, when we will head home, etc.

Before we even set foot in to a store, I may offer treats for good behavior. By this I mean a small reward for staying close by, helping with a younger child, not begging to be able to buy something, or just being pleasant. How does this differ from a bribe? you ask. Well, the biggest difference is that it is offered ahead of time and not in the middle of a rough time, just to avoid a scene or maintain my own sanity. (Sometimes, however, I have been known to resort to bribery.)

3. Keep everyone busy

Yesterday we had a lot to do. Just one of the things on my to-do list included finding a couple of new items for my trip to San Diego this weekend. My kids were less than thrilled as we pulled in to the Ross parking lot. I wanted to try to make this a fun shopping trip for all of us, so I created a game that got everyone excited. The goal of the game was to find the most sparkly item – whether it be a dress, a top, or a pair of shoes. Off we went, with the promise of prizes for all the winners. It worked beautifully!

I use this same idea when we go grocery shopping – I assign part of my list to each of the older kids and ask the younger kids to help me pick out certain items. Sometimes we’ll even brainstorm new meal ideas as we stroll along the aisles. Keeping everyone busy is a fantastic way to ensure they all stay occupied enough to leave each other alone. And, it assures they understand we are there to accomplish a goal and then we’re done!

4. Don’t leave home without an extra dose of patience

You know as well as I do, regardless of how many kids you have, that these afternoons of running errands hardly ever go as planned. This is where that extra patience comes to play. Don’t leave home without it!

How do you accomplish a successful afternoon of running errands with your kiddos?
Please share your tips!


  1. karendye says

    Thanks for the good tips! It’s good to know I”m not the only mom who has shopping challenges.

  2. Katherine says

    Very good!! I also try to always have everyone use the restroom right before walking out the door, and we also bring a drink each. With five children, it’s getting interesting!!

  3. says

    It’s funny what we consider a luxury now – in our life with kids. Running errands alone fits into that category. However, I do love your ‘keeping them busy’ tip, especially how you make games. Kudos. Will try that out.

    I’ve heard of moms paying a ‘sitter’ to ride along on those errand days where you have a dozen or so, ‘simple run in, run out,’ type stops like dry cleaners, to pay a bill, pick up one item, etc. The sitter stays in the vehicle with the kids, plays games, keeps the peace, keeps them all safe, etc. That might be a luxury once or twice per month.
    rajean´s last blog post ..Wordless Wednesday – Shadow Photos

    • says

      Yes, running errands without kids is quite the luxury, but hiring a ride-along sitter sounds like a great idea!

      Let me know about the games you create for your kiddos the next time you’re out and about. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas!

  4. says

    Your the bomb!
    At the grocery store I started with my boys (who are now grown) but have began with the triplets when they were just 3 years old – I make them their own grocery list to help shop.
    The little ones get 1 or 2 items on their list. Helps them with reading (I make them figure out what is on their list by sounding it out) and they feel so proud with their own assignment.
    Now that they are 10, they get 5-10 items (depending on grocery trip) and I’ll let them take a small cart and get things on their own.
    Works wonders!
    Sandy Jenney – Organize with Sandy´s last blog post ..Kids Activities – Pets

  5. says

    Running errands with kids in tow is definitely some that works better when planned out. My son hates doing errands so it usually involves some kind of compromise to get him to come along without complaining the whole time. But who can blame him for not wanting to go buy groceries when he’d rather be at home playing?
    Kimberly´s last blog post ..Sleeping in the Caribbean with Kids