Maybe it was the fact that I was confined to a teeny tiny cubicle for the majority of my adult life post university, but I relished in the newfound freedom I found as a stay at home mother and spent as much time as possible out of the house with my first born. Once my husband went back to work around the 6 week mark, I knew that I had to start venturing out on my own. I was the first of all of my friends to have a baby and therefore didn’t know a single mother so I googled and found some infant classes to attend.
It was through this center that I met a wonderful group of mothers with babies of similar ages. We would meet up at classes and then head out in a herd with our strollers, perusing the local shops, dining at the best lunch spots, and checking out the best outings our area had to offer.
If my baby was screaming in the middle of the restaurant, my stress level would rise and I would begin panicking, the other mothers in my group would reassure me that it was fine (no one was watching - he would calm down in a minute). If I needed to nurse in the middle of the Nordstrom’s men’s shoe department, my friend would sit down and nurse with me. They were the ones that truly gave me the courage and inspired me to get out and do things with my baby without worrying or panicking or stressing out.
That first born of mine is now 5 ½ and has two younger brothers, a toddler aged 2 and a baby aged 4 months and our everyday adventures and outings haven’t stopped. After almost 6 years of daily excursions exploring everything our city has to offer, I have figured out the keys to a successful outing with a preschooler, toddler, and a baby.
How to have a successful outing and adventure with kids....
Timing is key.
Whatever the outing or adventure you have planned for the day, be it a park, playground, hike, trip to the zoo, or even grocery shopping, choose a time that is optimal for everyone. Obviously, when you have children of different ages, it isn’t always easy to pick a time that works for everyone, but try finding a time when everyone is well-rested and in the best mood. Avoiding times when little ones are hungry and tired or both will lead to a more successful trip and less breakdowns. For us this is in the morning before my toddler’s afternoon nap (the baby takes his morning nap while we are out and about in the carrier).
Prepare your kids ahead of time.
Giving your children an idea of where you are going, what you are going to be doing, and what behavior is expected of them is another key to having a successful outing and adventure with kids. If you are going to the zoo and need them to stay close to you and not venture too far ahead, let them know beforehand. If you’re going to the playground and need your older child to stick with the younger one, remind them before they’re sprinting towards the playground equipment. If you’re bringing them along to a Doctor’s appointment, let them know that it is a quiet and calm space before they step into the Doctor’s office. Whatever the adventure that your day holds, giving your children an idea of what is planned and expected reduces your stress and enables your little ones the opportunity to understand expectations.
Bring snacks. A lot of snacks.
No matter how much I fill my little ones up while we are at home, I can guarantee that my children will get hungry while we are out exploring and adventuring. No matter the adventure, children expel a lot of physical energy. No matter the time of day or length of our outing, I always pack lunch boxes (these ones are my favorites) stocked with a complete lunch and then include additional snacks in my bag. I have a cooler that includes full packages of food that stays packed the entire week and I just add to it each morning as items run out.
Pack the perfect outing bag.
This really depends on the age of your children. Obviously if you have an infant, you’re going to need different items than if you have a toddler or older child. There are a few things that you will need for all ages including, water bottles (pack one or two frozen ones if you’re going to be out all day), snacks (see above), wipes, sunscreen, extra pair of clothes, hats, and a spare bag for dirty or muddy clothes. Always pack more than you think you need and expect the unexpected.
Make it an adventure.
Even if we are going to the park down the street from us and have been there one thousand times before, I try to help them notice or do different things every time we go so it's exciting for them and adds some diversity to the monotony of our everyday routines.
Focus on the good, not the bad.
When you are out and about with your children, try to praise them for all of the things they are doing well (instead of reprimanding them for everything they’re doing wrong). Whether it’s holding your hand in the parking lot or staying close-by in a crowded place or helping their sibling up after a fall, let them know that you noticed and you appreciate it. A good exercise to try is avoid using the word “no” (you’ll be surprised to find just how often you actually use the word no) which will require you to get creative in using positive ways to discuss negative behaviors.
Remember, these adventures are for you and your children to connect and have fun with one another so go at their pace. If you’re at the zoo, but all they want to do is play at the playground (this scenario happens a lot in our household), then let them! When you're out with kids, letting the kids lead the way means a lot less stress and frustration for everyone involved.