5 reasons you should take your kids along on errands

In the past couple of holiday-themed weeks I have found myself using kid-free hours — when they are at school or with their dad — to run to the UPS store, feed a friend’s cats or return overdue books to the library. You likely try to get stuff done without little kids in tow. It can be so much more efficient –even relaxing! Duh.

But there are plenty of reasons why you should make a point of dragging the minions with on your next errand spree. Here are five:

1. Errands teach your kids about life and that is your job as a parent. There is so much pressure to make every moment with your kids a special, Hallmark moment to cherish forever. You know what else is special? Competent adults. Instead of saving all your family time for kite flying and paper snowflake making, teach them about shopping for best values negotiating customer service. Even my 3-year-old learns about maneuvering through the world by observing me interacting with the salesman selling me a new blender.

2. Kids need to know that life is not all fun. There are many mundane, practical things that must happen to get through each and every day. You want brownies? Well, first we have to go to the bank to get the money to go to the grocery store to buy the sugar and cocoa and eggs and flour and vanilla and butter, then lug it all home before we even start baking. You like getting Christmas gifts? We have to stand in line a long time at the post office to buy stamps to send holiday cards so that our relatives remember we’re alive so they will send you one.

3. Kids need to know that anything can be fun. Small, meaningful interactions are the stuff of life. My kids love visiting the fruit market where the large Greek clerk with frosted plumb-colored lips always remarks at how big they’ve grown since last week and gives them each a miniature banana. At the bank they rush for the bowls of lollipops and pour themselves Styrofoam cups of cold water from the cooler. My friend, who was raised in Bavaria, has fond childhood memories of accompanying his mother on her weekly visits to the butcher who always passed him a single slice of a certain, mild sausage while they waited.

4. Errands pass the time. Now, yeah, sure, we all say we’re super busy and over-scheduled. But if you have little kids like I do, finding stuff to do in the afternoons — especially when the weather is the pits – can be a challenge. Take the rugrats along to the drug store or to get the car oil changed. Live in the world. Find ways to turn it into an adventure (“Let’s pretend that while we go through the car wash we’re on a pirate’s ship in a storm!”).

5. Take your kids along on errands because you don’t have a choice. Maybe you really are over-scheduled and have no other option but to drag your children along to the grocery store and bank and pharmacy and Target, even though you could do it alone in a quarter of the time. But you can’t. So make the best of it. Find ways to teach your kids along the way. Make it hilarious. Because if you can’t control the situation, why stress about it?

Emma Johnson is a veteran money writer, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, REAL SIMPLE, Parenting, USA Today and others.

The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children (Penguin, 2017), was a #1 bestseller and was featured in hundreds of media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, Oprah.com and the New York Post, which named it to its ‘Must Read” list.

Her popular blog Wealthysinglemommy.com, and podcast Like a Mother, explore issues facing professional single moms: business and career, money, sex, relationships and parenting. Emma regularly comments on these topics for outlets such as CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, The Doctors, and many more. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” one of “20 Personal Finance Influencers to Follow on Twitter” by AOL DailyFinance, “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and “Most Eligible New Yorkers” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker on gender equality, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality.

Emma grew up in Sycamore, Ill., and lives in New York City with her children.

8 thoughts on “5 reasons you should take your kids along on errands

  1. This really hits home for me. My 7yo son HATES going to the supermarket because he does think everything should be fun. And my attempts to convince him otherwise mostly fail. So I schedule supermarket around his schedule, which is RIDICULOUS.

    Thanks for the reminder. #2 and #3. Yup.

  2. I thoroughly love this post. It is definitely the details of the everyday that kids remember. While they squeal with excitement when we plan the big stuff, it’s the errands that are a part of their routine and teach them how to behave in public.

  3. @Amanda: How about if you play into the need to be helpful? “We need this WHOLE list of stuff. You are responsible for finding these 10. That will really make my life a lot easier!” Lame?

    @Heather – I love that, it really is all about your attitude (no judgments passed, Amanda :)

  4. I just love that there is someone else in the world who thinks like I do. When I was a SAHM, I used to joke that my kids didn’t get “quality” time with me, but they sure as hell got “quantity” time. We would spend time together at the bank, the grocery store, the DMV, Little League sign up. Yes, it made things harder sometimes, but it was also time we were together and that was what I thought was important.

    I still make one of the three go to the grocery store with me each week as a way to get some one on one time. No, they don’t exactly love it now that they’re 13 and 10, but they do learn how to plan meals, how much groceries cost (which totally shocks them every time), and the effort it takes to keep a household running smoothly.

    Thanks so much for sharing your point of view and making me feel like I’m a little less crazy.

  5. I’ve been doing way too many errands during childcare time precisely because it is easier. Also, shopping can sometimes be me time. But yeah, my kids do like errands. The thing is, they really like it when it’s just *one* of them. Hauling all 3 anywhere can easily become a disaster.

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