Oh you really want to go to the beach? Sorry darlin'. You need to pick up your (strewn about toy or object) before we go. (Deploy clean up song. Offer back up and support. Resist raising tone and temper.)
So how do we get out of the house? How do we ever leave?
Here you go. I'm not an expert, but this is how we do it.
Leaving The House With A Toddler, (Only one. All bets are off if you have more littles that you.)
Step 1: Advertise the plan
Make all plans well known at least two hours ahead of time, if not the night before (especially the night before if early morning departure). Make those plans (hopefully) something your child will enjoy doing. Even if it's picking rocks out of your tire's tread, let her know she's going to get to do a really important job, with a really cool tool. "Harper, did you know you get to help momma pick rocks out of the tires on the car?!!! Doesn't that sound awesome? No? Well, would you like to help me and use the needle nose pliers?" Luckily for me, anytime a tool is involved, Harper is down for action.
This works for grocery shopping. Going to do laundry. Going anywhere. The point is the going. Out. Of. The. House.
Step 2: Layout the plan
Harper. Remember how I told you I need your help with the pliers? Well this is our plan. We are going to eat breakfast, change out of our jammers, brush our teeth, put our shoes on, and go do it! Ok? Ok!
Step 3: Follow the plan
As each part of the plan goes, we reiterate the rest of the plan.
Ok! We ate breakfast. Now we need to change out of our jammers, brush our teeth, put on shoes, and go!
Granted, changing into clothes is the toughest part of our routine. You may have a different hang up. In the event we get derailed and naked running around and bed jumping starts, I have resorted to pulling the cool tool we are going to use (pliers, roll of tape, glue stick, mom's special pen, etc.) and have her hold it safe while we get dressed. If that's the case and I have her hold the tool, I add the very special important job of keeping the tool safe while we do the rest of the list.
And follow down until you are ready to walk out the door.
Step 4: Do the fun awesome project together, letting the child do as much of the work as safety allows.
If the object is something she can carry herself on the way to the place/activity great. If not, I hold it safe and let her know she will get it once it's time to start the super awesome job. " So let's get to that super awesome job fast. Let's race!" And then we race.
And if none of this works today. Good job on setting the ground work for tomorrow! You're already at step 1 again!
Since moving to Chicago, I've had to learn new "safe" places for Harper and I to go do fun things. In our old city, it was a car wash. For real. We would go spend a few hours at the car wash because they had free vacuums and have you ever seen a toddler set free inside a car?! She would sit holding the wheel, I would try to vacuum all the gold fish out of the car seat.
Where we go now for fellow Chicago folks (We're near Hyde Park, so yeah these may not work for you):
The Lakefront - bring your SPF and let your kiddos run free. Sand and toddlers are magic.
Bixler Park at 57th street and Blackstone - It's fenced in people. I was amazed and so thankful for parks that have a gate! It blew my mind! This park has all the usual park things but is awesome specifically because of 1) the gate 2) People from the neighborhood bring the toys their kids have grown out of here to end their days and die. There are toy kitchens in the sand box. Shovels, buckets, trucks, tricycles, on and on and on so many things for kids to use so you aren't trying to bring all that stuff AND get your kid out of the house. It's already there! 3) there is a coffee shop across the street. So go there, get your coffee with your toddler (I give her the job to hold a straw and open it for me while I order and wait) then go to the gated mecca for parents and let the child loose!
MSI, The Museum of Science and Industry - If you live in Chicago and can swing it, get a family pass to this place. Parking is included when you buy the pass, so even if you only go to the museum four times, not only have you already gotten your money's worth, but you can just use the parking and have access to the lake front, the nearby parks, and Osaka gardens. However, WE LOVE MSI. Baby chickens are hatched everyday. There is a specific kid zone on the bottom floor. There are tractors to climb in. Weather exhibits (lightning!). Trains. It goes on and on.
Grandma's House - You're not invited, but I will say, if you have a grandma in the area, why not get a two-fer out of the deal? You get out of the house and grandma gets a visit!
Lincoln Park Zoo - This is North, but we go here regularly, so it's on the list. It's FREE. Parking can be tricky, so if you can swing a weekday visit you don't have as hard of time finding a street spot.
Costco - I'm saving this one for last because it's wonderful. The aisles are huge, let them run! The items are big and heavy and it's unlikely your wee-one will have the muscles needed to lift any of it. There are usually samples. The staff is super chill. Oh yeah, and if you go at 1pm on a Monday, you'll have the whole place to yourself. Maybe with a napping toddler. (see photo below. It took us forever to get going this day. All the effort led to a Costco nap. I keep a pillow in the car.)