So yesterday I covered the basics on how I head outside of our house with the kids to run errands, hit the grocery store, go to Target, and so on. I covered the logistics of navigating the parking lot, making use of the shopping cart, and managing bathroom breaks. But what about the times that I take the gang out for a big planned outing to someplace fun- like the zoo, the movies, the museum, or some such adventure? Let me share some of my tips with you….
Layout the expectations
Before we leave the house, usually over breakfast, I will explain to the kids my game plan for our outing. I will cover the basics, where we are going, what we will do there, whether or not lunch or snacks are involved, and how long we will stay. And I will cover the “rules of engagement”… the behavior I expect of them, whether or not they can bring DS's in the car to play on the drive over, and what the consequence will be if they alter from my prescribed guidelines (namely, going home and spending the afternoon in their rooms- without electronics!). I let them make requests at this time, ask questions- and then I ask everyone to “commit to the game plan”… Are we all in, kids?
I do all of this to help eliminate the begging for extra treats at the snack bar, the souvenirs from the aquarium gift shop, and the endless request to feed money into the penny-press machines at the zoo. This isn't to say that I can't be spontaneous when we get to our destination and add these things into our adventure, or that we never enjoy the snack bar, souvenirs, or the shiny pressed penny- we definitely do from time to time. But I have learned that a lovely day out with the kids can quickly turn sour when someone has a melt-down because they want the cute little plush frog in the gift shop window- and I didn't clearly spell out ahead of time that this wasn't going to be a souvenir-acquiring kind of a day.
Of course this pre-outing process has turned one of my daughters into a total “plan-oholic”…. (hmm…..just like Mom)…. and she wants to know my plans for everything we do, ahead of time, all of the time. And taking it a step further, she now anticipates what the plan might be for any given day- for instance she has recently started asking to change into her pj's right after school, since she knows it is “in the plan” later in the day, and she just wants to get a jump-start on it.
Count, count, and re-count
When I am out with the kids, I count to 6 about a bazillion times. One of my biggest fears in life, is leaving a straggler behind somewhere because I have allowed the crew to move ahead to the next exhibit without realizing that one of them wasn't with us. I imagine that little person feeling that Mommy didn't care enough to check on him…. that he just got lost in shuffle of this big family and he didn't matter….. (my eyes tear up just thinking about it)….
So I count, often. And re-count. And if we are swimming in a pool somewhere- then I count about a jagillion-bazillion times. Last year when we visited a water park at Disney, a fellow visitor caught me doing this and said to me that he totally understood, he had been counting up to 5, for his 5 kids all day. (Of course talking to him made me take my eyes off of my kids, so I had to count them…. again).
Dress them alike?
You know, this is something that I haven't done….. even when we go to huge places like Disney. It's not a bad idea….. but it just isn't something that I have felt compelled to do.
Meals and snacks out
I think ahead to where we are going, and what the dining and snack options might be, and plan around it. I try to be very frugal in this area…. for our family, the cost of the food can easily top the cost of admission for the outing. And the real joy of hitting the zoo or the bowling alley is in the event itself- not in dining at the over-priced, less-healthy restaurants and snack bars. So where possible I will take along packed lunches and even snacks- and I pretty much always take along our drinks. But I will usually supplement the bagged lunches with a special treat from the venue- such as ice cream cones at the zoo or the beach, or fries at the bowling alley.
Tomorrow I will talk about dining out in restaurants, casual or otherwise with the kids!