Busy moms and dads are used to taking their young kids with them on errands around town. Whether it’s a quick trip to the grocery store, grabbing a latte at the coffee shop, an afternoon at the mall, or an hour at soccer practice, parents can take full advantage of these times to interact and stimulate their kids through many creative ways. Here’s how:
Talk while you drive. Instead of driving quietly you can teach your toddlers many fun concepts while in the car. These ideas will 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 rearview 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.”
- 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.
- Label games. Point out baby’s favorite and familiar foods as you move along, even those you aren’t buying that day.
- Counting games. Count out loud together as you put items into the cart. “One apple, two apples . . .” and so on.
- 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.
Strolling together. Running errands will often find you pushing a cranky toddler before you. Here are some ways you can make stroller 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.
- Cruise control. Let your child control the speed. Have him tell you “faster, slower, stop”, etc.
- Drive through lunch. Be sure to stop and grab a healthy snack. Fruit smoothies are perfect.