It’s no secret that life becomes more complicated once you have children. Between accommodating meal and sleep schedules, ensuring the diaper bag is packed and just getting little ones in and out of the car, even the simplest outing can feel overwhelming.
When our daughter, Cate, was born, I was so anxious about leaving the house that I practically avoided going anywhere except to work or to run a quick errand. Thankfully, I learned a few age-specific parenting tricks to help reduce my stress by feeling more organized and prepared.
- Make a list: With an infant in tow, we did not travel light. At the very least, we always needed to have diapers and wipes, pacifiers, extra clothes, bibs, burp cloths and a blanket or nursing cover. To make sure we didn’t forget one of these must-have items, I posted a checklist on the door leading to the garage. Whenever we walked out to the car, my husband and I could quickly scan the list to be sure we had everything with us. This was also helpful when Cate’s grandparents would come to help watch her.
- Coordinate travel times: Whenever traveling long distances, we tried to coordinate our travel plans with naptime or bedtime so Cate would sleep in the car for most – if not all – of the ride. If we left at bedtime, we tried to adhere to our normal routine of bath and jammies before getting in the car.
- Invest in a storage bin: As Cate has gotten older, diapers and bottles have been replaced with toys, coloring books and crayons. I purchased a cute, foldable storage bin to keep in the car, and it is filled with these items. So, even if we eat out unexpectedly, I am always prepared with a toy or stickers. And if there’s one thing that will keep your toddler entertained, it’s stickers!
- Pack snacks: Never leave the house without a snack! Because my toddler’s meltdowns are usually a result of either being too tired or too hungry, I always carry a box of raisins, pouch of applesauce or a granola bar – or all three – in my purse. Even if she’s tired, a snack will usually help both of us make it to bedtime.
- Create a shared calendar: At age 3 and a half, Cate’s calendar is starting to be as busy as ours, filled with practices, birthday parties and playdates. My husband and I use a shared family calendar to keep up with her activities, as well as work obligations, travel schedules and other family commitments.
- Get organized at home: We have a cabinet or basket in most rooms of our house dedicated for Cate’s things. For example, there is one cabinet in the living room for toys, and she has a kitchen set with a small decorative basket of kitchen accessories in our kitchen. This method has helped us reduce clutter while allowing her the flexibility to play wherever we are. Now that she’s increasingly more self-sufficient, we’ve also started applying this to the pantry and fridge, where she has a space on the bottom shelves for her parent-approved snacks and drinks.
- Plan (and prep) ahead: Because not even our dog is a morning person, we prepare what we can at night to make getting out the door in the morning as easy as possible. When Cate was a baby, this included sanitizing bottles and pacifiers and prepping her bottle bag so everything was ready to go the next day. Now, we help her pick out an outfit the night before, check that she has everything she needs in her bag for school, pack lunches and set the coffee maker. (Mommy and Daddy need that last one to stay on top of everything else!)
Looking for more parenting “hacks?” Primrose Schools has tons of tips to help you navigate parenthood, from surviving potty training and dealing with picky eaters to helping your child say goodbye to the pacifier.
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