How do moms of many manage when they are moms of many littles, what have we learned and what would we do differently? Today 4 Moms, 35 Kids (KimC at Life in a Shoe, Connie at Smockity Frocks and the Deputy Headmistress at The Commonroom and I) are tackling this topic.
When we had only young children every time I left the house everyone went with me. We’ve had 3 children 2 and younger, 4 children (3 and younger), 5 children (5 and younger), 6 children (7 and younger), 7 children (8 and younger), 8 children (9 and younger) and 9 children (11 and younger). So I’ve had a lot of practice. 🙂
Be diligent to train your children.
Being able to expect basic, cheerful obedience from your children is the best way to manage a crowd of them. If you’re having to man-handle your toddlers, you’ll have a bit of difficulty once you have two children and need to use your hands for shopping.
Have a plan.
Trying to manage lots of littles requires a bit of advance planning.
Just imagine this, I take my just turned 5 year old, 4 year old, 2 year old and 1 year old out of the car in a public parking lot and then I get back in the car to unstrap the baby. Bad, right? When you’re managing a mini-multitude having a plan is important for safety and sanity.
Pick a good time of day. Don’t head out just before meal time or nap time. Don’t head out if your kids are already cranky. I like to run errands right after breakfast.
Plan how to safely load and unload the children and stuff into and out of the car. (Once you get all the children into the car are you going to want to walk across the parking lot to return the cart? I always park next to the cart return.)
Plan how to walk through the parking lot, who is going to hold who’s hand and what equipment you’re going use (stroller, baby carrier, etc).
Plan how to keep track of everyone while you’re focused or partially focused on shopping.
By the time our children are 2 they know their roll in the plan, whether that is not letting go of their big sibling’s hand or holding onto the shopping cart.
Give your children specific, positive instructions.
It’s hard for a little one to understand exactly what you expect when you say, “Stay with Mommy” (how close is “with mommy”?), “Don’t touch anything” (Can they touch your hand, the shopping cart, the box of crackers you asked them to get?) or “Don’t be crazy”.
Some of the instructions that have worked well for us are, “Two hands on the car” (terrific for when you are loading smaller children into the car), “Hold onto this, right here” and show them exactly where you want them to hold, “Hold onto your sibling’s hand” (perfect for when you have more children than hands) “Sit on your bottom” and “No noise with your mouth” (great if you want to be able to hear and talk to the doctor or cashier).
For our first 7 children I had very regular OB appointments (the last 2 were born at home). The children loved OB appointment days because we made them into adventures. (Here are 7 ways to enjoy waiting with your kids for ideas of keeping kids happy during the appointment.)
After the appointment we would head off for a picnic lunch and a hands-on museum or park, then we would try to get home in time for a late nap.
Limit errand running.
If possible combine trips or enlist your husband to help. When you have a houseful of little ones, having several days out of the house can be disruptive. When you get home from a shopping trip everyone, including mommy is tired and all the household tasks still need to be done, so if you can eliminate or combine errand running trips it’s easier on everyone.
Don’t eliminate “fun” outings.
Head out to the playground or take your kids to the zoo. These days pass too quickly and once your kids are bigger the schedule gets busier and you won’t have as many opportunities for little kid fun.
Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
It may not seem like it, but these days pass very quickly and pretty soon your “little” kids will be “big” kids and will ask if they can stay home and babysit while you run the errands.
Take your time, watch and enjoy your children learning and exploring the world around them. I realize that sometimes you just need to get your tasks done, but don’t always be in a rush.
Pay attention to what is interesting or important to your kids and make an effort to allow them to explore, learn or do what delights them.
One of my girls FAVORITE part about going out is getting to pump the lever on the paper towels after using a public restroom. It takes more time and energy for me, but I pick her up and let her pump it herself. It’s such a big deal to her, she will come home and tell her dad that she got to pump the paper towels for everyone!
If your kids admire the flowers along the road, stop (or make a separate trip) and let them explore and pick some. Wild flowers make lovely arrangements.
This is my regret. I wish I had slowed down and enjoyed more when my big kids were little. I’m much better at it now, but now my little kids are Sadie, Savannah, Colby and Nicholas. I don’t get another chance with Amber, Kaitlin, Matthew or Alyssa. So please listen to me on this point at least, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
(Last night when I was commenting about my regrets, my big kids all piped in with a bunch of the fun things that they remember me doing with them. I’m glad that they remember so much of the good and my little kids will have even more to remember. God is good.)
Related post: Why I Still Run Errands with Little Ones
Now go check out what the other moms of many have to say about outings with only little kids:
I know I missed somethings because I no longer have only little ones. Now I just assign each of the big kids to hold the hand of one of the little kids, tell everyone to behave and please don’t block any aisles and off we go. So what did I miss or how do you do it?