How To Run Errands When You Have Small Kids

Find out how you can make it easier to run errands with young children. Get actionable tips from a mom of three!

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Running errands with small children is difficult.

Really difficult.

It can be so hard that we often feel like we are on vacation if we run errands alone.

How and when you run errands is going to be so very, very specific to your individual family.

How far do you live from “errands”? What types of errands do you need to run? What are the ages of your children, and what are their sleep needs? How often do you like to run errands?

In this post, I will share various ways I did errands throughout my children’s lives. This has been a dynamic thing for me, meaning it changes pretty frequently.

I think if you have more than one child, you will find best results (meaning a productive trip with happy children) if you cater to the schedule of the youngest child.

Running Errands with One Baby

When Brayden was my only and a baby, we just had a time of day he and I would go run errands together.

I typically chose to run errands more toward the evening. My husband was working part-time and going to school full time, so he didn’t get home until after 8 PM most nights.

I prefer to disrupt a nap later in the day if possible. I would let him take his first two naps at home, then I would get him up, feed him, and go to town to run errands. We would be out for his waketime and his next nap and I would be home in time for the next feeding.

Our frequency really just depended on the need.

Running Errands with One Pre-Toddler

At this point, errands got easier to work in. With a longer waketime, we could go out and run errands in the waketime he was up for.

Running Errands with One Toddler (and pregnant)

The pregnant part is important because toddlers+pregnant=tired mom.

I am so sick when I am pregnant that we usually spent the first trimester at least running errands as a family in the evenings.

We also cut back on how often we “needed” to run errands. Sometimes Brayden and I would just go in the morning. For most people, this is the easiest time of day at this age because the child is down to one nap by this point and up all morning long.

As the pregnancy progressed and I was going to the doctor more often, I would sometimes run errands after doctor appointments. My mom would watch Brayden while I went to the doctor. So I would go to the doctor and then run some errands. Running errands while pregnant is easier when you don’t have to carry a toddler around also 🙂

Another time of day that I would do this was just going out by myself in the evening after my husband got home from work.

Running Errands with One Toddler and One Baby

Initially, I did not run errands by myself with my two children. The main reason for this was my desire to cater to the younger child.

I knew it was best for her to get her naps disrupted later in the day than earlier (just like I did with Brayden).  So we ran errands as a family after dinner. We continued to cut back on how often we really needed to run errands.

The cycle continued similarly as it had with Brayden. I got pregnant with McKenna about the same time-frame as I had with Kaitlyn, so things were very similar.

Running Errands One Preschooler, One Toddler, and One Baby

This is the same it was when Kaitlyn was a baby. However, with having older children, we added some fun to it. So we would go run errands, then go to a park to play for the evening.

By the time McKenna was 5 months old, Brayden was starting preschool. He went three days a week. I carpooled with two other moms, so I drove one day a week.

The driving time, however, interfered with nap for McKenna.  My parents offered to come watch our girls while I drove, then I could run errands between drop off and pick-up (yes, I know my parents are awesome).

So once a week, I had 2.5 hours to get my errands done. Anyone with children knows that when you are used to running errands with child, running errands alone increases your speed by a ton. 2.5 hours was way more than I needed for my errands.

That lasted for the school year so right to…

Running Errands with One Child, One Preschooler, and one Pre-toddler

This was summer, so no more preschool drop-offs. McKenna was awake for longer periods, so I would just take the children shopping. Sometimes we would run errands as a family in the evening and then go do something fun afterward. I like to consolidate my driving time, so if I know I am driving to town for XYZ that day, I will plan to stop at certain places along the way to get it all done at once. For some reason, I greatly dislike driving to town more than once a day. So I multi-task.

Running Errands with One Child, One Preschooler, and One Toddler

When McKenna went to one nap, we were in a new school year and Kaitlyn had dance once a week.

Her dance class was only 45 minutes long, and I learned to squeeze my errands into that time frame once a week.

Oh yes, I did it.

I will tell you that you leave a grocery store having not spent much money when you have 30 minutes to shop and you are with a toddler. I only bought what was on my list. It was very efficient and cost-effective. We didn’t have as many snacks in the house, but that is okay.

Today, that is still the category we are in. I do errands in the morning–with or without all three children (though always with at least one). They are all easy to have around on errands so it is not a big deal.

Tips For Making Errands with Kids Easiest

These are the things I have found to make things easier in relation to errands.

  • Keep a list throughout the week. We keep a list of things we need daily. As soon as someone sees we need something, we add it to the list. We used to use a pad of paper that was on a magnet that hung on the refridgerator (I got them for a dollar at Target). Now we use our Cozi app. Love the Cozi app. This way, you are able to get all you need when you go to the store and not have to make an emergency run to the store for one thing.
  • Make a list before you leave–have a plan. Make a list of not only what you need, but where  you need to go. You can either write it down or keep a mental list. Think about the most efficient order to go to these places. Having a meal plan for the week before you go grocery shopping will help so you only need to go one time. No last-minute emergency trips.
  • Go when children are well rested and not hungry. If your child is hungry or tired, your child will not be good, and you will be frustrated and stressed.
  • Bring snacks and drinks if you will be pushing it. If you will be close to a meal or nap time, having a bottle of water (or sippy) along with some crackers (or whatever snack you want) can help kids make it that extra thirty minutes (or whatever).
  • Have food storage. A big reason we didn’t need to go shopping so much when we had babies was that we have a food storage. By the time the newborn stage was over, we started to run a little thin on things. But during the first few months of the baby’s life, we could easily go grocery shopping only twice a month.
  • Buy enough to last. If you want to go to that store once a week or twice a month (or less), buy enough of what you get there so you don’t need to go any sooner than you want to.
  • Order ahead. Some grocery stores will let you call ahead and place your order and they will have your food when you get there. I don’t live by any that do that, but I have heard tale. There are also things like a pharmacy where you call ahead and make your wait time at the pharmacy shorter.
  • Get things delivered. You can go to the grocery store a lot less often if you get perishables delivered to your home. You can get various groceries delivered. Local dairies will deliver milk, eggs, cheese, and even some non-perishables. We live in a great day and age when you can get lots of things delivered to your doorstep. You can buy things like diapers from Subscribe and save is amazing!
  • Utilize Drive-throughs. I know drive throughs are not popular with environmentalists, but they can make your trip easier if you have a young child with you. That is one less stop where you have to get the child out of the carseat, in the store, then back in the carseat.
  • Consolidate trips. Get as many of your errands done on one trip as you can. Wait for the things you can wait for until you have enough you need to make a trip out of it.
  • Get babysitters. Trade childcare with a friend, go when your spouse is home, as your parents to watch the kids…going without children can make things easier. However, I know one of my favorite things to do as a child was run errands with my mom, so I do think there is something special about having your children with you while you run errands–and it is only for a brief time in your life! Though sometimes it is magical and special about going alone, too 🙂

Those are my tips! Please share your tips for making your errands easier! What do you do to make this task more efficient and enjoyable?

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11 thoughts on “How To Run Errands When You Have Small Kids”

  1. In the day and age of 24hr stores, I go after bedtime, or let my husband do bedime alone that night. Tuesday nights at 7 I'm out the door. It's heaven. No tired baby (mine is 6mo), no juggling a cart and a kiddo, and the traffic is very low. I consolidate all my errands to that one night a week.

  2. Our family lives in South America (Asuncion, Paraguay, to be specific). Now that our daughter is 18 months old, she and I usually do errands after lunch, during her wake-time. We don't have a car, so errands are either within walking distance or we take a bus. What we need and how quickly we need to get home determines if we take the stroller or not; our little girl has gotten rather used to the 1/2 mile walk to/from the grocery store (and even helps carry light bags home!). We also routinely go on family walks in the evenings (again, sometimes with, sometimes without the stroller) and can pick up odds and ends then, too. I actually enjoy NOT consolidating our errands simply because it gives my daughter and I things to do together during the day other than play in the house or in the yard. The nearest playgrounds are a bus ride (plus a LONG walk) away and the buses here don't run on a schedule. Sometimes it takes most of her wake time just to get to the park (not that we don't attempt it from time to time).

  3. just when i think, how can val come up with another GREAT "how i do it" post, here it is! love em! i do nearly all my errands after work (i work 2 days a week, get off around 6:30 or so). daddy watches the kiddos all day and puts them to bed. it is wonderful to shop without the distraction and continual interupption of young ones. when i do go out with the girls for an appt or something, it takes F.O.R.E.V.E.R and i would love a post on how you get things done so quickly !!!!! i am guessing you dont do much potty training/ breastfeeding stuff with those type of time restraints? if you only spend 45 minutes in a store, how often do you go? i have noticed you do meals very quickly as well , and my toddler is MUCH slower at eating. anyway great post, thanks val

  4. I have found my attitude makes all the difference. When I leave with the attitude of the shopping trip as an opportunity to teach obedience, colors, manners, etc then it's fun for the kids and myself. If I can't have that attitude I try not to go because the kids sense it. I should mention that I have three kids ages 3.5, 2, and 6 months. What helps me is having my baby in my snugli, my toddler in the cart, and my oldest helping push the cart. We are quite the sight and always receive comments about how close they are, but shopping isn't a problem as long as I have my attitude right.

  5. I'm not sure where to post my question so I'll just do it here. My son has some speech delays. Everyone pretty much has said not to worry about it since he's just two. Dispite that I kept pushing until just this Friday a doctor realized he's tongue tied. I'm so glad I followed my instincts! We are waiting to see a specialist and have surgery to correct it. After that he will go through speech therapy. Here's my question. Do you have any suggestions as to how to break his screaming habit? We are trying to work more on sign language to replace the habit of screaming. Maybe there's nothing else to do but give it time. I just really want another opinion so I can give him all the tools he needs for success and you always have such creative ideas! Thanks!

  6. Summer, my kids have both been able to "hold it" forever (in kid time). They have rarely gone potty in a store, even as newly potty trained people. We go potty before we leave the house and they never ask to go again. They just go when we get home. And with young babies, I rarely am breastfeeding out and about. I time my errands between feedings. There were times with McKenna I did nurse out and about, but that was in the newborn months when she ate more often.

  7. Becky,I think sign language is a great idea. Pay attention to the moments he screams–he probably has pretty consistent reasons for the most part. Focus on those signs. You might have to be patient to get him to sign back at first. I am sure once he is able to talk, he will turn his screams into words (but it will likely take time–not just magical overnight fix). Way to go sticking to your intuition!

  8. I know this is an older post but I follow your blog to help with my Babywise journey. My daughter is 4 months old and every time we take her out in public she cries. Her wake time is about an hour long after she eats we only have about 30 minutes left. It takes us 30 minutes just to get to town. So by the time we get somewhere it is time for her to go to sleep, but many times I don't have another option but to bring her with me. I'm not sure if she's getting overwhelmed in public since I stay at home with her all day or if she's just tired. Have you ever experienced this or do you have any additional advice? Thanks,Kim Baker

    • Hi Kim! I did experience this! Brayden took an hour to eat for the first 3 months of his life. At 3 months, he took it to 40 minutes and I thought that was awesome. What I did was feed him a bottle on our way to town. It only took us 15-20 minutes to get there, but the bottle helped add to the time we had. I would also suggest you try going out later in the day. At four months, baby usually goes to 3 naps, so you should have some more time in the evenings to get things done. Another idea I have for you is to get a babysitter to "watch" him while he takes a nap. If he naps for two hours, that gives you more time. I would suggest you plan your trips well so you only have to go once a week. Something like amazon subscriptions might be a good option so you don't have to get as much in town.


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