Making Errands Fun

Eliza Clark
August 9, 2011

Preschoolers get dragged around on a lot of errands. That's just the nature of the age. Their big siblings are off at camp or school, and it is the lot of the two-, three- or four-year-old to tag along with parents and sitters on trips to the grocery store, hardware store, garden center, and whatever other stops are on the list of errands for the day. 

Parents might think of this as wasted time for the little ones, and we all certainly know that it's a lot more efficient to take care of errands without a small child in tow. And yet, coming along for the usual round of household errands is a good learning experience for kids and can be an enjoyable one as well. 

It's not so hard to make running errands fun and productive for kids and parents alike. Here are ten simple ideas to get you started:

Make sure your child isn't hungry. So simple, yet so often forgotten. A hungry kid will inevitably whine for all sorts of things you have no intention of buying, and your happy errand expedition will be off to a rough start.

Take it slow. Leave yourselves plenty of time to wander, stop, look, examine, talk. Do your best to be in the moment with your child, and you'll both be much happier.

Give your little one the list (or a copy of the list) and a pencil. Kids like to feel that they are part of the mission and that they have a role to play; they also love to imitate us. Keeping track of a list, even one scrawled on the back of an envelope, lets them do both.

Try not give in to demands for treats. While it may be tempting to get your child a treat "for being such a good helper," this is a slippery slope. Errands are part of the regular routine of any household, and you'll be doling out more and more treats with less and less happy results if you go down this road.

Do allow your child to help choose a few items for the household. A better approach than giving treats is to let your little one pick out certain necessary items, like the type of yogurt they like, or the flavor of juice box, etc. In those instances, their input is actually quite valuable!

Play "I Spy" with letters, colors or shapes. Stores are wonderful places to play "I Spy." If you're looking for the Cheerios in the cereal aisle, for instance, ask your little one to spy a "C" or the "O" shape. He may be better at this than you are!

Meet your neighborhood shopkeepers. Errands are much more fun for kids (and grown-ups too) when they can stop for a brief hello or chat with neighborhood shopkeepers. Make the effort to introduce your children to the people who work at the stores you frequent together. It's a nice thing for all.

Process your decisions out-loud. Children are always wondering what goes through their parents' heads, and why they do the things they do. As you go about your errands, talk out-loud about why you are choosing such and such item, why you are stopping at this place or that, and so on. Dull stuff to you, perhaps, but fascinating for your little one!

Let you child be in charge of the coins. By the time they enter kindergarten, it's a good thing for kids to be able to identify coins and know their value. What better way for them to learn than though real life, hands on experience? Keep a small coin purse that the kids can use to handle the change when you do errands together. You can start by saying "we need two quarter and two pennies," for instance, and pretty soon they'll catch on to the system.

Ask for their help. Show your kids how much you count on them by asking them for real assistance. I always ask my four-year-old to hold the doors for me when I'm out doing errands or bringing in groceries, and it really helps me out! She's quite proud of her door-helper status by now.

How about you, Savvy readers? How do you make running errands fun for your kids?


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