Arsenal of Distraction

You’ve seen it before: Wild-eyed parents, one inhaling food, the other running after a tornado cute, adorable toddler.

This is our life every time we go out to eat. Having an incredibly energetic one year old with an insatiable zest for sockets, trash cans and industrial fans, leaving the house is always one big production. I’m talking Broadway razzle dazzle here folks, not just local theater.

Which is why we have been forced to find ways to distract our little guy whenever he is in the car seat, high chair, or the great big outdoors. Sometimes these tricks work, sometimes his desire to grab the server’s apron is just way too strong. But here are our favorite manipulations tips for going out with an ultra-curious toddler:

Timing Is Everything

E hates being strapped down. He doesn’t last long in the car seat, stroller or high chair, and it can make leaving the house a stressful ordeal. So I try my best to time our trips with his nap time, that way he falls asleep in the car seat (after a little drama crying) and then by the time we get to our destination, he’s well rested and in a good mood. Make sure you get on the road during (somewhat) predictable traffic hours, so usually after lunch and just before rush hour are good times.

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He’s also in a better mood when he’s in a dry diaper, has a full tummy and the temperature in the car is just right before we strap him in. It also helps that Sophie the Giraffe keeps him occupied for a while. Speaking of Sophie–

Designate Toys

There are certain toys / gadgets / teethers that we only bring out during strapdown. A toy steering wheel for the car seat, a toy tablet and some coloring materials for meal times, and chew toys for when he’s in the stroller. Mind you, these are just the main events– you have to have little things for the trailers! Random things work, like pamaypays, small travel bottles, old remote controls. Anything with buttons and switches and things that are NOT TOYS. I swear, kids are so weird.

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Let Them Participate

These little critters are sometimes super excited to be all grownup. My guy HAS to have his own spoon, plate, and drink from a cup– just like us. He also takes the broom, mop or vacuum away from me when I’m cleaning. So now I make it a point to give him non-breakable, little versions of these things to make him feel like he’s participating and part of the group. This kid has major FOMO issues. You can just imagine what cooking time is like in our household.

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Music Calms the Beast

Elizabeth Mitchell is a fantastic musician and and a favorite in our family. She writes children’s music that even I enjoy, very folky and cute. I play her songs during the start of the trip or our walk (when he’s in the stroller), so he associates her music with going somewhere nice or fun.

Eat Fast and Wear Comfortable Shoes

Sometimes you just have to give in to the fact that you will not be eating a proper meal. During fussy phases, my husband and I take turns eating and then running around with the little man. It’s tiring, it’s frustrating sometimes, and it’s sad that you’re left alone at a table that’s covered in mess and crumpled place mats, but hey, at least you’re out of the house and those 3-week-old yoga pants, right?

In the meantime, I’m trying to enjoy this chaotic time in our lives. I’m thinking of it as collecting great stories to tell, and a personal test of character. My patience is at an all-time high, thanks to my son! Ha! Hope these things work for you, even for a little bit 😉

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