Heading out with kids? Here are my top 10 tips on how to make the most of an excursion.
You know your kids better than anyone, and you also know their needs – a newborn has a different set of logistics to an 11 year old when it comes to an outing, but the list below can be applied to any age when it comes to making an excursion with kids as smooth sailing as possible.
- Be prepared with supplies – my kids are out of the nappy bag phase, but I still carry some band-aids and tissues for emergencies; and my handbag has usually got a toy car floating around in it, which has provided hours of distraction to Charlie (5). When we are going anywhere I usually pack a water bottle and some snacks, even if we are having food at a café it’s always helpful to have spare just in case service is slow or they don’t like anything on the menu (or, the b-word, if you need a bribe).
- Expectations – when it comes to going to going anywhere I try not to have too many expectations (on the kids or the activity). The usual set apply (like: don’t pick your nose, don’t be rude or throw food etc.) but as far as a response to a new situation (or even something we’ve done 20 times before) I have learnt it’s best not to assume anything. Also I don’t always go into to much detail about where we are going (or what we might be seeing) as when it’s something we’re doing for the first time it’s impossible to know exactly – but I do try and give the kids an idea of our running order for the day. The things they like to know are: where are we going, how long will it take to get there, when are we eating, is it a picnic from home or café food, are we meeting friends, how long will we stay, what kinds of things might we do there and so on.
- Behaviour – there are things I will brief/remind my kids on before we arrive somewhere, included in this is what kinds of behaviour might be appropriate, i.e. if it’s a very crowded place I need them to walk next to me at all times or if it’s a quiet venue try to use inside voices – just little things, to remind the kids to be respectful and safe.
- Pick your battles – work out what you want to get out of your experience: do you just want to get out for a change of scenery, do you want your child to appreciate a special performance, is this an opportunity to make a lasting memory together, do you want to practice behaving well in public, do you want your child to master a new skill, is this an opportunity for your child to have fun, perhaps this excursion is to socialize with others – when you know what your priorities are then you can pick the battles that are going to get you closer to your desired outcome. If it’s all about behaving well in public then for sure don’t put up with bad behaviour – and if it’s all about having fun, and they’re not having fun, maybe it’s time to do something else!
- Get involved – sometimes my kids, for whatever reason, are a little hesitant about joining in. Don’t give up on encouraging your kids to participate, especially if for a moment you think they might have regrets afterwards that they didn’t join in. However if that fails then don’t force them, sometimes a quiet word or just allowing them some time to watch from the sidelines can be all they need to forget their hesitation, other times it’s just not for them or, for whatever reason, they are just not in the mood that day. Sometimes the best cure is to loose your own inhibitions and join in the fun to show them just what they’re missing.
- Be flexible – it’s impossible to always know what’s in store and so when we are trying something new and I can’t answer the questions about where we are going I will say, “I have no idea what might be there when we get there, it will be a surprise for all of us” and then I just have to have faith in their ability to behave appropriately – and guess what, they usually always cope just fine.
- Sense of humour – sometime muddy puddles just need to be appreciated, sometimes someone has a snotty nose and we need to stay home, sometimes a full blow tantrum needs to unfold for the world to see, sometimes a sandwich is accidentally dropped on the floor of the bus and sometimes you just need to stop and smell the roses. The key is to be a bit flexible and creative – not just with the kids but also with ourselves. I know I sometimes get caught up in sweating the small stuff and forgetting to take our time and enjoy the journey as much as the destination. As Emerson said “life is a journey not a destination”.
- Toilets – inevitably as soon as it’s most inconvenient someone will be “busting” so plan ahead at regular intervals to incorporate a toilet break, or three, into your day.
- You – don’t forget your own needs. Sometimes we’re so busy making sure the kids are taken care of we forget about ourselves. It’s important to have coffee money handy (if coffee is vital to your sanity) and an escape plan.
- Tell a story – at the end of our adventure when we are on our way home we discuss what happened: what our favorite bits were, what things we did that were new, what was difficult, what made us laugh. By practicing our story like this when someone asks about our day the kids can hopefully share some of their experience with more than a one-word answer (hopefully!).
Got any other tips to add? Please leave a comment below – I’d love to hear what you think!