Picture this. It’s time for swim lessons and you’re running late. Again. You’re not dressed in appropriate “leaving the house” attire, your kid is butt naked in the living room, and you can’t find her swimsuit anywhere. Once you’re finally in the car, she asks for her water cup and then tells you that she has to pee.
I wish I could tell you that this was a made up story, but it’s not. For many months I wondered how on earth people ever got out of their house on time with a toddler. I figured those people were superheroes and that I was just destined to be late for the rest of my life. Or at least until my kids moved out.
But then I decided that’s not how I wanted to live, so I made some changes in our day to day life and I’d love to share those with you today.
I sat down one evening and really thought out our pain points when it came to getting out of the house. Where was the hold up? What was happening over and over again that was making getting anywhere on time so hard?
Constantly running late makes me anxious. I hate the prospect of holding someone up or letting them down in any way. Rushing makes me tense and I get snappy with my husband and daughter. I don’t like who I am when I’m rushing to get everything together and then rushing to the car, only to have to rush down the highway and hope there’s no traffic or a police officer.
So here are a few things I changed in our daily routine that has made getting out of the house with a toddler so much easier. Let me clarify, that yes, we still run late sometimes, but I don’t have that panicked rushing-around-the-house-looking-for-things feeling that I used to.
Get as much ready the night before as you can.
It takes a little planning and extra time, but if you know you have somewhere to be the next morning, take a few minutes and prepare.
I like to set out clothes for Little Miss and myself, down to socks and shoes and her hair accessories. If you have an opinionated child that likes to pick out their own clothes, let them choose before bed. This is also helpful if you need a specific uniform or piece of clothing for a performance or sporting event. If it’s dirty, you can throw it in the wash real quick, or at least you know where it is when you need it.
Gather up any entertainment your kids might need. If you’re going somewhere with a long drive or where you’ll have to wait a long time, bring some things to keep your little ones occupied like books or quiet toys. Throw them in your purse or in a small bag and set them by the back door.
It also pays to have snacks and drinks (for you AND the kids) handy. No one likes to run errands with a hangry mama or kid. So fill up your water bottle and a cup for your child and grab a travel-friendly snack for everyone and stick them in the fridge or by the door. If you’re forgetful like me, stick a post-it note on the door so you won’t forget anything you’ve put in the fridge.
Get yourself ready first.
Have you ever made the mistake of getting your kids ready before you got yourself ready? You’ve got them dressed and looking super cute and then you head to your bedroom to finish your hair, only to come back and find that they’ve lost their shoes and are standing in a diaper. I learned that one the hard way, so now I always make sure I get myself ready first.
Ideally I would get up before Little Miss is awake and get myself completely, or at least mostly, ready before she’s up. But I don’t always live in that ideal little world (like, ever) so that rarely happens. So now you’re tasked with getting ready while your kid is awake.
You have a few options here. Some mornings I let Little Miss sit on the couch and drink her milk and watch an episode of Daniel Tiger while I get ready. Other mornings she comes to our room with me and plays while I’m getting ready. (She loves to play with this magnetic dress up doll and get it dressed while I’m getting dressed.) You could also use this time for coloring or looking at a book.
Set an alarm on your phone.
I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to let time get away from me. My first glance at the clock shows that I have more time than I thought, so I allow myself to get caught up in the goings-on on Instagram or decide to fold a load of laundry and before I know it, I have zero time to get ready. You can fix that problem by setting an alarm on your phone. Decide how much time you need to get yourself and your kids ready and out the door and then set an alarm or timer giving yourself that much time before you need to leave.
For example, if we need to be out the door by 10:00 to get to swim by 10:30, I think about what needs to be done. I need to be dressed, have my makeup on and hair done and Little Miss needs to be dressed with her swim bag packed, her hair up and have eaten some semblance of breakfast (she’s not much of a breakfast eater, so this is a daily battle in our house). So I know that all of that will take us about 45 minutes to get accomplished. I set an alarm for 9:15 so that I know that’s when I need to go start getting myself ready and we can go from there.
Have the car stocked for quick trips.
There are always unexpected errands or quick trips that you weren’t planning to make and don’t have a lot of time to plan for. That’s why it’s important to have you car stocked with a few essentials that you might need while you’re out.
Two things that I try to never leave home without are snacks and extra clothes. Little Miss (and me too, for that matter) is not a happy camper when she gets hangry, so I try to keep a couple of snacks in the console of the car in case we need one and I forgot to grab one before leaving the house. I usually go with a granola bar, peanut butter crackers or trail mix because they keep pretty well, even in the summer.
I also have a gallon sized freezer bag in the car with an extra outfit, a few pair of panties and a Pull-Up. Before Little Miss was potty trained, I always had a stash of diapers and wipes that I kept with an outfit or two. Your emergency clothing stash may look different, based on the ages of your kids, and I’m thinking I should probably keep an extra outfit for myself in the car too.
If you have a recurring errand or outing each week, plan ahead.
We currently have a few recurring outings each week that I know about well in advance. I know that on Sunday mornings and evenings and again on Wednesday evening, we will be at church. I also know that on Monday mornings, we will go to swim lessons. Unless of illness or a canceled lesson, those will happen each week, so I have no excuse to not be prepared for them. But why are those the outings I always seemed to run late to? Because I wasn’t prepared.
Just in the last couple of months, I made it a point to make sure that everything was ready for those two outings in advance. Like, even a week in advance. When we get home from swim lessons, I toss Little Miss’ towel and swimsuit in the wash and then immediately put them back into her bag when they come out of the dryer. That means that I’m ready for next week’s lesson a whole week ahead of time. Sure, I’ll still have to get her clothes out the night before her lesson and figure out what I’m going to wear, but her gear is always ready to go. No more running around searching for her towel or suit. They’re in the bag by the back door.
I also have her church bag ready to go about a week in advance. When we get home on Sunday evenings, I take out any of her Bible class papers and make sure the contents of the bag are put back together, and voila, we’re already ready for next Sunday. This simple task takes just a few minutes, but saves me so much stress as we’re walking out the door on Sunday morning!
Have a leaving the house routine.
Kids thrive on routine. And really, so do adults. So we’ve developed a “leaving the house routine” that makes our life so much easier. Little Miss knows what to expect and we have way fewer meltdowns as we’re trying to get out the door.
Our routine isn’t long or complicated. In fact, it takes less than 5 minutes (most days). Here’s what we do:
- Get shoes on. Little Miss is getting to the point where she’s pretty good with getting her shoes on by herself, or at least finding them and bringing them to me to help her with. Having a designated shoe spot has saved our bacon many times, but that’s a different post for a different day!
- Go potty. Now that we are officially diaperless, I learned the hard way that making her at least try to go to the bathroom before we leave the house results in much fewer accidents and/or stops at a McDonald’s to pee. Now she just knows that before we leave the house (or anywhere, for that matter), she has to try to use the bathroom.
- Give the dog a treat. Little Miss and our dog Riley have a special bond. They truly are each other’s favorite. So we can’t leave without a pet and a treat for our favorite furry friend.
Once those steps are complete, we’re out the door and to the car.
Getting out of the house with a toddler doesn’t have to be an anxiety-ridden nightmare every time you leave the house. You also don’t have to become a hermit and never leave. You can make a few small changes and plan ahead and make your daily or weekly outings much less stressful.
Do you have any tried and true tricks to getting your toddler out of the house easily? Share them in the comment section!