Parent’s these days are always on the go and are used to taking their little one’s along for the ride. Whether it’s a trip to the grocery store, picking up the dry cleaning, going to soccer practice, or running to the bank, parents can take advantage of these moments to interact and connect with their kids while keeping them stimulated in creative ways! Children need to get out and about, especially during their summer break, and avoid the summer slump by exercising their mind and body. Here are a few ways to have fun with your kids while running errands this summer:
Talk while you drive. Instead of driving quietly you can teach your toddlers many fun concepts while in the car. Just make sure to keep you main focus on the road! Here are a few ideas to keep your child occupied and interacting with you when the errands threaten to bore you both:
Stop and go. As the car comes to a stop playfully say the word “stop” while briefly catching your child’s eye in the rear-view mirror. When you begin to go again, give out a cheerful “go”.
Learning colors. The best way to teach red and green is using the stoplights. “Red means stop” and “Green means go” are perfect teaching tools. Ask your child to tell you to go when the light turns green and to say “Whooooaaaa!” when it turns yellow.
Left and right. As you make turns, ask your child to raise her corresponding right or left hand. Teach her the difference, then ask her to tell you which way you turn every time. Teaching older kids how to make the arm signals is a great way to make signaling automatic, whether on a bike or when they become drivers themselves.
Sing-a-long. Car rides are the perfect time to sing some favorite songs with your child. BINGO, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Old MacDonald are always fun, not to mention Chipper’s favorite sing-along-songs for in the car on this CD.
Grocery store trips can be a great learning opportunity for your child!
Shopping cart fun. Dragging a grumpy toddler through the store is never fun for anyone. Here are some great ideas that will make your shopping trips enjoyable for both of you:
Pick some fruit. A great distraction for your child is to enjoy a banana or other non-messy fruit as you shop. Make the produce section your first stop and let your child have the fun of reaching from the cart and picking out her own fruit. This is also a perfect time to teach colors – “Pick a yellow banana, not a green one.” Teach older kids how to pick the best fruits and vegetables through smell, sight, and sound. This will make their own shopping trips more successful when they have to shop for themselves.
Avoid the junk isles. If you stroll down the cookies isle, expect your child to not take no for an answer when he begins begging. Avoid these isles, or save them for the very last so you can make a quick exit from the store. Look for healthy alternatives that may seem sweet to avoid tantrums, such as chocolate granola bites by Naked or dried fruit snacks.
Label games. Point out baby’s favorite and familiar foods as you move along, even those you aren’t buying that day. If your child is old enough, start teaching them to look at the size (ounces, pounds, etc.) of different brands and compare them to the prices to be thrifty and even to look at the nutrition facts to avoid certain products and ingredients. It’s never too early to train your child to be a smart, healthy shopper!
Counting games. Count out loud together as you put items into the cart. “One apple, two apples . . .” and so on. If you use a list to shop (which makes things MUCH easier), have your child cross off each item and then count how many things remain on the list. If you’re going on a big shopping trip, this can occupy them for a while!
Unloading. If your child is losing patience towards the end, and you’re losing your cool, engage your child in placing the groceries onto the checkout stand. Hand each item to your child, say its name out loud, and have your child place it onto the conveyor belt. This is sure to buy you a few more minutes of happy time. If your child is a little to precocious for that, have them unload most of the cart and organize things by food groups. This will teach them to be organized and also simplify putting your groceries away.
Let them lead the way once in a while!
Strolling together. Running errands will often find you pushing a cranky toddler before you or dragging a moody child behind you. Here are some ways you can make stroller time or walking time more fun for both of you:
Music. Attach a musical toy to the front of the stroller. Sing along with your child as you walk along!
Let your child drive. Attach a steering wheel toy to the front of the stroller. Follow your child’s lead as they “turn” left or right. If your kids aren’t in a stroller anymore, let them lead the path to where you are going for a while so they feel like they have some power and aren’t being forced all over.
Cruise control. Let your child control the speed. Have him tell you “faster, slower, stop”, etc. Allow older kids to set the pace for a bit or play the traffic game where they can run ahead when you say “green light,” slow down when you say “yellow light,” and stop at “red light.”
Drive through lunch. Be sure to stop and grab a healthy snack. Fruit smoothies are perfect during the warm summer days and also a great incentive to behave. Having a little snack pack in the car for emergencies, will pretzels or trail mix, is a great way to avoid crankiness caused by hunger.
Running errands doesn’t have to be a nuisance for you and the kids. Enjoy this time you have together and take advantage of their free summer to really connect. There are so many fun things to do, all you need is a little creativity! What may seem like a tedious task to you can look like a fabulous adventure to your little explorer. Hook into that little-kid frame of mind, and you’ll be on your way to a successful jaunt for everyone. Just stay Chipper and get out there!