Tips for Getting Out of the House with a Baby or Toddler

When I go anywhere by myself, I’m amazed at how easy it is. I put on my shoes, grab my purse and keys, and step out the door. Presto. In constrast, getting out of the house with a baby or toddler takes so much more effort!

When I’m out by myself, I don’t have to plan my parking for the easiest route from the minivan to the store’s front door, or figure out how to navigate the stroller down a crowded aisle, or ensure that little figures are still trailing behind me and not distracted by the toys or cookies right at their eye level.

Now, it can be fun to pretend that I’m a mother duck waddling through the grocery store with my ducklings quacking along behind me (sometimes literally, if that keeps everyone moving in a line…). The truth is, it does same some extra planning to get out of the house and accomplish errands with a baby and toddler in tow.

Here are my tips for getting out of the house with a baby or toddler, without losing your sanity (or temper!).

Baby pushing his stroller while wearing a brown winter coat on a walk with Mommy.

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Start with Good Shoes

When Joey was about nine months old, I went shopping for new shoes for him. I was amazed that most of the shoes in his size had laces. Laces!!! On baby boy shoes! Clearly, some shoe designers have never attempted to put shoes on a baby boy.

Joey loves going outside, but he sits still for about five seconds to get his shoes on. Easy, comfy, slip-on shoes are a must for getting out of the house with a baby. Leather baby moccasins have been my favourite shoe style for most of my kids. Now, he has two pairs of leather boot moccasins. These slip on easily and offer a bit more protection for colder weather.

Baby wearing blue jeans and brown leather boots while sitting on cobblestones.

I live in sandals or boots myself, for ease of getting out the door quickly (and comfort while out!).

Keep the Diaper Bag Ready to Go

There’s nothing like being ready to walk out the door… and then realizing that there aren’t any diapers in the bag, or that it’s still full of dirty diapers and snack wrappers from yesterday’s errands.

When we get home from an outing, I try to remember to go through the diaper bag. Throw out the garbage, restock the diapers and snacks, etc. That way, I just have to get everyone into their shoes and coats when it’s time to go, and grab the diaper bag, and we’re out the door.

Having a place for everything also makes them easy to find and grab as we go. I keep my keys hanging by the door. The diaper bag and my purse sit on the shoe rack in the entry way. I always double-check that I’ve got my wallet and cell phone in the right bag. Usually my wallet stays in the diaper bag, but if I’m out alone, I take my purse.

Strollers and Baby Carriers

I also keep my jogging stroller and one baby carrier in my minivan. I don’t use them on every outing, but there are often times when I’m out and need one or the other. Having them ready to go can make the difference between a quick, easy shopping trip or a big disaster.

Baby standing beside spinning ride in his leather boot moccasins.

Give Yourself Extra Time

Yes, getting out of the house with a baby or toddler takes longer. Doing errands with your little ones will take longer too. Getting littles in and out of car seats and grocery carts and elevators requires extra time. Try to set reasonable expectations for your outing and plan ahead.

Sarah from Early Bird Mom says, “Most men (my husband included) probably think I’m nuts for creating a system for getting out of the house efficiently. But I know you busy moms are nodding your heads with me – it’s just not easy to do without some forethought. That’s why I use the Reverse Method of Leaving the House on Time With Kids in Tow.” I have a system similar to hers!

It’s also key to plan where you’ll stop when out. I rarely plan to run errands before my older daughters’ music lessons. I know that something I think will take ten minutes will probably take longer (since it takes that long just to get everyone out of the van!). So I leave any stops for after music lessons instead.

Baby playing in wood chips with a big stick.

Plan for Baby’s Nap

Oh, the all-important, glorious nap! When we’re at home, I love the silence and the break from being ever-vigilant about baby’s location that a nap provides. When trying to get out of the house, however, naps can be either wonderful or terrible.

Decide whether it will be better to have baby nap before going out, or to try to get baby to nap while you’re out. (It may take a few trials to determine which works better.) Where baby can nap will also depend on your baby’s temperament and sleep abilities and the nature of the outing.

Baby playing at library.

For example, lately I’ve been keeping Joey awake until 2 pm on Tuesdays so he’ll sleep through the girls’ music lessons. If we want to bike to the library, however, I’ve tried to get him to nap before we go riding so that he’s not falling asleep in the bike seat (and getting upset when every bump we go over wakes him up again).

Grocery Shopping with a Baby

Since having Joey, I’ve been using online shopping for my groceries. I order groceries a day before we’re going out. Then the way home from music or mom’s group, I’ll swing past the grocery store to pick up our order. While I’m still getting out of the house with a baby, at least I don’t have to get everyone out at the grocery store.

Baby sitting in a grocery cart, eating a sugar cookie from the bakery.

On the days when I’m not organized enough to order groceries online before we go out, I keep the shopping quick and simple. Get the most important items on the list first. If possible, write your list in the order that you’ll be going through the grocery store that you don’t have to backtrack as much.

Decide whether baby will ride best in the cart or in your stroller or baby carrier (because you have those in the van, right?). Grocery shopping with children in tow is easier if one or more of the children are attached to you.

Swing past the bakery for a cookie to keep your toddler busy or bring your own snacks (which also helps prevent the baby from demanding every apple or banana he sees, as Joey currently does).

Baby sliding down blue slide with hair getting static.

Know the Baby-Friendly Places

I love the discussions in our society today about accessibility for people with various abilities. I wish there were more discussions around accessibility for families. Being a parent has made me more aware of these issues, because I’ve realized that if I can’t get my stroller into a location, someone in a wheelchair can’t get there either.

We all have our favourite places to go. Some of those places may have to change when you become a parent. Know the baby-friendly places in your neighbourhood and frequent those locations.

For example, does the store or mall have stairs or escalators that will make it hard to get your stroller inside? Even if the mall has elevators, they may be located out of the way or nowhere close to the store you want to visit.

Are the doors big enough to get your stroller inside? It may seem silly, but we’ve been in a few locations where it was hard to get the stroller through a door—and I’ve never had a double stroller. Swinging gates or other obstacles can be hard to manage while pushing a stroller (and pulling a toddler).

Baby sitting on lawn, playing with a brown leaf.

Are there change tables in the washrooms? And where are the washrooms if you need them when your potty-training toddler yells for the whole store to hear that she needs to go pee?

What restaurants or coffee shops have high chairs or booster seats available for kids? Is the atmosphere family-friendly or are other patrons going to give you the evil eye for bringing your baby out with you?

Just Get Out of the House

As an introvert, I could happily stay home all day, every week. There are day when the effort of getting everyone into shoes and coats and out the door seems too great. Not to mention the chance of toddler meltdowns in the grocery store with everyone watching, or how hard it is to keep an energetic baby reasonably quiet and happy through Mass.

However, I know that it’s better for both me and the kids if we do get out of the house at least a few times a week. Take a walk to the playground. Go to baby time at the library. Join a fitness class at the rec centre and put the little ons in childminding for an hour. Yes, it takes some effort, but it’s worth it.

Baby climbing stairs on a playground.

Let go of your to-do list for half an hour and let the baby lead the way. My children teach me to delight in the little things again. A ladybug on a leaf with have my three-year-old entranced for a good ten minutes or more. A crinkly leaf will make the baby laugh. And the sunshine will be good for all of us.

What tips would you share for getting out of the house with a baby or toddler?

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