Running Errands with Little Ones (With Less Stress & More Fun!)

Approaching 200,000 miles, my van has served our family well. The 2014, tan-colored Toyota Sienna is the third of our well-loved vans, but it’s beginning to give us a few problems that we fear might not be worthy of repairs at this point. 

Thinking of car shopping reminds me of our very first van. With the birth of our third child all those years ago, we began to entertain the idea of a Mommy-van. When Jeb Daniel was almost eleven months old, we decided to take the plunge, partly because we knew we’d be moving across country, thanks to Uncle Sam and my husband’s Navy career, within the next year. 

We gathered the kids on a Saturday morning – Jeremy(7), Jenifer(4), and toddler Jeb Daniel. My husband’s research convinced him that we wanted a conversion-style van, one of those with the extra ceiling room to make our future cross-country trips more pleasurable. 

The first lot had no conversion vans, so we moved on quickly. The next lot had a couple of vans that seemed to our liking. Our little ones were ecstatic over the idea of a van, and showed their enthusiasm with loud, verbose, charged mannerisms, moving from seat to seat to check out comfortableness, stretching on tiptoes to reach for the ceiling, and crawling up and down the aisles between the seats like mice running in one of those pet store wheels. 

My husband asked the sales person if they had other vans we could look at and he responded rather quickly, “We have more on our other lot across town. If you want to get a baby-sitter and come back another day, I’d be happy to show you those vans.”

David stole a glance my way, took one child by the hand, picked up the youngest, and said, “Thank you for your time. We’ll be in touch.”

My husband knew if he didn’t whisk me away, I’d say something I would later regret. I didn’t care for the salesman’s comment. Our kids weren’t being destructive in any way, and I appreciated their enthusiasm about our van adventure. 

Over twenty-six years later, my husband and I laugh about the event, and he is convinced he saw steam coming from my ears that day. I disagree, but I’ll admit I wasn’t happy. And David knew there was no way I’d ever purchase a family van from someone I didn’t consider a family man.

Perhaps I should have attempted to calm the kids during our shopping spree, but I rather enjoyed their happiness! And you know what? They enjoyed every road trip, memory, and adventure in the conversion van that we did purchase the next week … from a totally different dealership who was quite accommodating to my husband, me, and our three kiddos.

In honor of our impending car shopping trip – which will sadly have no little ones under foot – here’s a few tips and tricks we learned over the years when running errands with our crew of three, that later turned into four, precious ones. 

7 Tips on How To Run Errands with Less Stress and More Fun

1. Time it Just Right

If possible, pick a time of day to run errands when your little ones are well-rested and well-fed. Shopping or running errands when our children were sleepy or hungry was a recipe for disaster! Also, consider the hours and locations of your errands and go during less-busy times. For example, we knew the bank would have long lines during the noon to one o’clock time-frame when people were running that errand during their lunch break, so we avoided that time. And, I made sure to plan my errands around school dismissal time so that we wouldn’t get stuck behind school buses. 

2. Be Prepared for Delays 

Speaking of timing, errands always seemed to take longer than I thought. Make sure to carry snacks, juice boxes, water bottles, and other goodies along, just in case. 

3. Keep Backpack or Diaper Bag Fully Stocked

That very time I thought I could run a quick errand, one or two delays later, and my potty-training little one had gone through the extra pull-ups and clothes I had in the diaper bag because I hadn’t restocked recently! I learned quickly to check the diaper bag as I was getting my little ones ready for bed. Bath – check! Brush teeth – check! Refill diaper bag – check! That way, I wasn’t scrambling the next day when I needed to get out the door quickly for an errand.

4. Keep Special Toys in the Car or Diaper Bag Just for Errand Time

I tried to keep age-appropriate trinkets and toys handy for errands that the kids didn’t play with regularly. That made the toy more fun and entertaining for a longer period of time while in the car or waiting in the drive-through lane of the pharmacy. 

5. Make Time for Treats or Special Pit-Stops

Reward the kids for patience during errand-running with a pit-stop to get a fruit smoothie or frozen yogurt, donut or cookie, or some other yummy treat. Or, add in a stop at the park or library in between some of the errands. 

6. Get Creative

Turn errands into a memorable event by getting creative. Sing songs or make up stories while riding in the car. Play “I Spy” while waiting in line. Find items in the grocery store for every letter of the alphabet for older kiddos. Play a pretend game of hide-and-seek while in the car with older ones. The person hiding can pick anywhere in Grandmommy’s house, no matter how big or small, and the others have to ask questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” until someone guesses the hiding spot.

Or, before you head out on errands, make a list of “things” you know you’ll see while out and about. Tell the kids you’re going on a scavenger hunt while errand-running. For example, if you know you’ll drive past the library on an errand and the library has a large eagle statue out front, put “eagle statue” on the scavenger hunt list. Or, if you’ll pass a ranch or stables, write “horse” on the list. Encourage the kids to find everything on the list while you’re errand-running.

7. Have Fun! 

Be patient with the kids and praise them often for helping you get the tasks accomplished. @JLavenderwrites #parenting #family

Turn errands into a fun adventure rather than a chore. Be patient with the kids and praise them often for helping you get the tasks accomplished. Model kindness to store employees, fellow errand-runners, and others you meet. Make errands memorable, because one day, you’ll be shopping for groceries … or a new vehicle … without anyone under foot, and you’ll miss those exuberant kiddos accompanying you on every errand! 

4 thoughts on “Running Errands with Little Ones (With Less Stress & More Fun!)

  1. Great tips Ms. Julie. If I’m honest, I don’t like to see kids that are disruptive in terms of screaming, crying, and fits of rage because they’re not well-behaved (to my standard), but grace reminds me that the world is not supposed to live to my standard but to God’s. While I’ve never been a car salesman, I’ve also never been offended by enthusiastic, even noisy, or inquisitive children as long at it was clear “who was in charge”. It’s when mamas and dads seem to be the ones being controlled that the hair on the back of my neck rises. LOL I like the ideas of preparing your children and encouraging their involvement in things like this. It makes them feel included and part of an adventure. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be, a journey of discovery?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your tips are spot on! And let me say, as a grandma – ahem – the steam relates to how quickly I run out of it 🙂 After a recent trip with my grands, I give an ‘Amen’ to Tips 3 and 4! Great post, Julie.


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